Top Golf Newsmakers of 2022: Alan Shipnuck, author of “Phil”

Alan Shipnuck, the journalist whose interview with Phil Mickelson and subsequent book sparked the sport, is ranked 13th among the top 20 newsmakers by SI Golf.

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Top Golf Newsmakers of 2022: Alan Shipnuck, author of "Phil"
Top Golf Newsmakers of 2022: Alan Shipnuck, author of “Phil”

Who He Is: Golf Writer and Author

SI Golf rankings: 11 (Gabby Herzig), 4 (Alex Miceli), 20 (John Schwarb)

Why is he here? On February 17, veteran golf journalist and novelist Alan Shipnuck revealed a section of his interview with Phil Mickelson for the Fire Pit Collective, which took place in November 2021 as part of a Mickelson biography Shipnuck was working on. Mickelson talked candidly about why he planned to join LIV Golf, and his statements sparked a firestorm. For those who need a reminder, here’s an example:

“We know they assassinated (Washington Post reporter and U.S. resident Jamal) Khashoggi and have a bad record on human rights. People are executed in that country for being gay. Why would I ever contemplate it, knowing all of this? Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to influence how the PGA Tour functions.

“They’ve been able to get by with deceptive, aggressive, strong-arm techniques but we, the players, have no redress. As pleasant as (PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan) appears to be, unless you have leverage, he will not do what is right. And Saudi money has finally provided us with that leverage. I’m not sure I want (the new league) to succeed, but the very existence of it allows us to get things done with the (PGA) Tour.”

Shortly after Shipnuck’s web story was published, Mickelson announced a leave of absence from professional golf and essentially went into hiding, skipping the Masters, where he’d have enjoyed various ceremonial trappings as a former champion, and the PGA Championship, where he’d have returned as the defending champion after one of his most stunning victories. Shipnuck’s book, “Phil: The Rip-Roaring (and Unauthorized!) Biography of Golf’s Most Colorful Superstar,” was released on May 17, the Tuesday of PGA Championship week.

“I think the book took fire the way it did because this year’s golf was marked by deception, spin, misdirection, and other types of bulls—-tery,” said Shipnuck, a Magazine Cover writer for more than two decades. “However, the most candid comments came from Phil’s discussion with me regarding Saudi Arabia and the Tour.”

Mickelson made his comeback at LIV Golf’s first event in London. Shipnuck was taken out of Mickelson’s first press conference while covering the event.

A photo of a perplexed Shipnuck, with LIV Golf commish Greg Norman frowning at him in the backdrop, went popular on Twitter this summer.

In his first LIV press conference, Mickelson was chastised for his apparent lack of sincerity. To say the least, it was a weird day in golf journalism.

“The Norman tweet going viral was the flip of [my book interview]: it was amusing and ludicrous because [Mickelson’s] remarks were so hollow,” Shipnuck explained. “I’m not claiming the golf beat equals Watergate, but if my reporting stood out this year, it’s because fans just want the unvarnished truth about a difficult, changing narrative, and I attempted to offer that.”

Shipnuck will cover golf for Fire Pit Collective in 2023. Mickelson will work for LIV Golf on the golf course. There will be interviews and press conferences. The PGA Tour and LIV Golf will continue to compete. There will be more nonsense. SI Golf will keep track of everything.

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