DUBLIN, Ohio – At first blush, it was a normal Phil Mickelson round - three bogeys, three birdies combined with twice as many cheers and groans that added up to an even-par 72 on a perfect Ohio day at the Memorial Tournament.
But Mickelson’s Saturday was anything but status quo.
Two separate reports in the Wall Street Journal and New York Times revealed on Friday that Mickelson was the subject of an investigation by the FBI and Securities and Exchange Commission involving possible insider trading.
Following his round on Saturday, Mickelson maintained his innocence and deferred to a statement he issued early Saturday morning.
“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,” said Mickelson, who was tied for 49th when he spoke briefly with reporters at Muirfield Village. “Hopefully it will be soon, but for right now I can't really talk much about it.”
According to the WSJ report, authorities are “examining a series of well-timed trades” involving Mickelson, high-profile Las Vegas gambler William “Billy” Walters and investor Carl Icahn.
Neither Mickelson, Walters nor Icahn has been accused of any wrongdoing.
Mickelson confirmed that he was approached by two federal agents after his round on Thursday, but wouldn’t comment on when he first learned of the investigation.
According to the New York Times report, authorities have been investigating two separate stock transactions involving Mickelson and Walters for two years and that the three-time Masters champion was approached by the FBI last year at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey to discuss the investigation.
Mickelson was also asked if the investigation has been a distraction and if it has impacted his game.
“Not until Thursday,” said Mickelson, who doesn’t have a single top-10 finish on the PGA Tour this season.
“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. 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.”
Mickelson, who said he never considered withdrawing from this week’s event, arrived an hour before his 10:27 a.m. (ET) tee time on Saturday and met with his manager, Steve Loy with Lagardere Unlimited, for 30 minutes before heading to the practice range for an abbreviated warm up.
Mickelson was greeted with warm applause on the first tee on Saturday at Muirfield Village and a predictably large gallery that normally follows one of the game’s most popular players. After his press conference, he signed autographs for about 30 minutes.
He turned in even-par 36 after hitting his approach shot into a water hazard at the ninth hole, and followed back-to-back birdies at Nos. 14 and 15 with bogeys at the 16th and 17th holes.
In his statement on Saturday, Mickelson said his legal counsel has advised him to make no further statements. His attorney, Glenn Cohen, told the WSJ, “Phil is not the target of any investigation. Period,” and added that an FBI agent told him Mickelson wasn't a target.
Icahn told CNBC’s Scott Wapner that he’s never met Mickelson and that he has not been contacted by the FBI or been served any subpoenas.
“We don't know of any investigation. We’re proud of our 50-year unblemished record. I have never given out inside information,” Icahn said.
When contacted by the WSJ Walters declined to comment.
Mickelson is scheduled to play next week’s FedEx St. Jude Classic in Memphis followed by the U.S. Open, where he will be seeking to complete the career Grand Slam with a victory.