News broke late Friday that the federal authorities, the FBI and SEC, are looking into Phil Mickelson, along with investor Carl Icahn and gambler William “Billy” Walters, for a string of well-timed trades made in 2011.
Mickelson, who shot an even-par 72 in the third round of The Memorial, was greeted by a large group of reporters after he finished signing his scorecard. When he turned the corner from the scoring room and walked toward the podium, he reacted with a big, goofy smile and said, “Awesome!” Laughter ensued.
Mickelson surely was expecting the reception.
“I have done absolutely nothing wrong, ” said Mickelson in a statement released early Saturday morning. “I have cooperated with the government in this investigation and will continue to do so. I wish I could fully discuss this matter, but under the current circumstances it’s just not possible.”
He echoed much of the same in his post-round interview on Saturday afternoon.
Asked how much the investigation was weighing on him, Mickelson replied, “You know what? I can’t really go into much right now, but as I said in my statement: I have done absolutely nothing wrong. And that’s why I’ve been fully cooperating with the FBI agents, and I’m happy to do so in the future, too, until this gets resolved.
“Hopefully it will be soon, but for right now, I can’t really talk much about it.”
Mickelson was approached by two FBi agents following his round on Thursday, which was first reported by the Wall Street Journal. He initially dodged answering whether or not the report was accurate.
“I really can’t say,” he said when asked if the encounter was unsettling. “I don’t want to say anything more than that. But I’ve got no problem cooperating. I’ve been cooperating and I’ve done nothing wrong.
“And so hopefully in the future or hopefully shortly we’ll be able to discuss this further, but for right now.”
However, Mickelson eventually did confirm he was approached by FBI agents
Q. Where did you see the agents? How much has the situation affected your golf?
PHIL MICKELSON: It hasn’t until Thursday.
Q. Where did you see them on Thursday, in the clubhouse?
PHIL MICKELSON: After the round they followed me just like the article said. It was accurate.
A Wall Street Journal reporter — not the one who penned the initial article — was on-site today and attempted to speak with Mickelson as the golfer was leaving the practice range this morning (reporter knew it wasn’t “protocol” but he’s not “part of the club,” so he just tried to do his job). At that time, Mickelson essentially told him the same thing. Their exchange during the post-round scrum got a little testy:
Q. So how close are you and Billy Walters, and did you know where he got the stock advice that he gave you?
PHIL MICKELSON: So I’m really not going to say anything more until future sometime in the near future. I hope. I hope it’s soon.
But right now, as this is going on, I’ll cooperate as much as I can. I’ll cooperate fully with the FBI, but I’m not going to say any more.
Q. Did you invest in Clorox at his advice and did you invest in Dean Foods at his advice?
PHIL MICKELSON: You should know; you wrote the article.
At this point, PGA Tour officials tried to stop the interview, but were unsuccessful.
The New York Times reported that this past Thursday wasn’t the first time Mickelson had been questioned by the federal authorities. Last year FBI agents approached him at Teterboro Airport to discuss his trading.
“I really don’t want to add anything to that,” said Mickelson when asked for confirmation of the encounter.
He continued to state that he was cooperating with the investigators (but not us, the media).
Mickelson is targeting the career grand slam in two weeks at the U.S. Open, an event where he’s finished runner-up six times. The question now is whether he can put aside this distraction and focus on the goal at hand. He thinks he can.
“I think that as a player you have to be able to block out whatever is going on off the golf course and be able to focus on the golf course,” said Mickelson.
“It’s not going to change the way I carry myself. Honestly, I’ve done nothing wrong. I’m not going to walk around any other way.”
The U.S. Open will be held June 12-15 at Pinehurst No. 2 in North Carolina. In 1999 when it was held at the same venue, Mickelson finished second to the late Payne Stewart.