Move over, Long John Daly. Phil Mickelson has suddenly become
golf's most high-profile gambler. On the eve of the NFL playoffs
Lefty talked about his lucrative hobby.

SI: No doubt it's just coincidence, but you haven't been seen on
Tour since the NFL season began. What have you been watching on
Sundays, golf or football?

PM: I don't remember if out of my seven screens the Tour even
got a little corner slot. I don't think it even rated picture in
picture.

SI: Last year you won two Tour events as well as big preseason
bets on the Super Bowl and the World Series. Which was the most
satisfying victory?

PM: As far as self-fulfillment, nothing compares with winning
golf tournaments, but the baseball and football seasons were
very interesting and very fun.

SI: The reported numbers on your winnings were pretty impressive.

PM: And hugely inflated. There were 10 guys in on the
Diamondbacks deal, so my take on the World Series was about
$50,000. The Super Bowl, let's see, it was $486,000 divided by
28 shares, I had two shares, so that was about $50,000, too.

SI: Why sell shares on the bet?

PM: The reason is, I'm not really in it for financial gain as
much as to have something to talk about with friends. I had my
mother-in-law in on the Ravens bet, and she and I got very close
that year. Not only did I help her win a bunch of money, but we
also called each other every Sunday during every Ravens game and
said, "Did you see that play?"

SI: How much of your betting is head, how much is heart?

PM: Picking winners is 99% luck. I don't put in much time on it.
I have a memory where, if I see something on paper, I'll remember
it. I don't want to say I have a photographic memory, but if I
look at a team's depth chart, I'm going to remember it.

SI: So what are your keys to making a preseason Super Bowl pick?

PM: I'm not real fond of these questions, to be honest. Gosh,
it's wearing out the gambling thing.

SI: C'mon, the playoffs are just getting going.

PM: All right, in football I look solely for depth. If a team
loses a key player, who's his backup? Does it alter the
chemistry of the team? For instance, if Marshall Faulk gets
hurt, Trung Canidate is backing him up. Canidate is as fast or
faster than Faulk. He catches the ball well out of the
backfield. He can line up in the slot. So the offense doesn't
change even if the Rams lose Faulk, one of the best players in
the NFL.

SI: O.K., here's the big one. Who did you pick this year?

PM: The Rams at 6 to 1.

COLOR PHOTO: ROBERT BECK (2)
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