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Tim Finchem should go public with Phil Mickelson's punishment

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1 Big Thing: It could've been a lot worse for Mickelson (2:19)

SVP discusses the story behind Phil Mickelson making nearly $1 million on an insider trading tip from sports gambler Billy Walters. Mickelson agreed to pay back the money and wasn't criminally charged. (2:19)

Tim Finchem is in his final months as PGA Tour commissioner, and undoubtedly Phil Mickelson would be a big part of any goodbye celebration, heaping praise upon the man whose tenure has mirrored his professional career.

Mickelson, 45, is one of the few active players who was around when Finchem took over for Deane Beman on June 1, 1994, Lefty having turned pro two years earlier.

The 42-time PGA Tour winner is keenly aware of what Finchem has accomplished, and while they might have butted heads a few times over the years, Mickelson understands the big picture: Finchem presided over the PGA Tour during a time of phenomenal growth in which Mickelson prospered on and off the course.

All of which makes for a potentially uneasy and awkward situation over the coming days, weeks or months.

Quite simply, Finchem might have to suspend one of the game's most accomplished and popular players because of his alleged dealings with a known gambler.

The Hall of Famer golfer will not face any criminal charges over the Securities and Exchange Commission findings announced last week in which he agreed to pay back nearly $1 million plus interest for his involvement in a stock purchase and sale that was deemed to be insider trading.

As serious as that is, it's the other news that is more troubling as it relates to golf -- that Mickelson allegedly took the advice from known gambler Billy Walters to buy and sell the stock in order to repay Walters.

That not only looks bad, it is specifically dealt with in the PGA Tour's handbook on player conduct.

Among the stipulations outlined in the gambling section, a player shall not "associate with or have dealings with persons whose activities, including gambling, might reflect adversely upon the integrity of the game of golf.''

At the very least, that suggests Finchem has to do something: a suspension, a fine, a scolding, a public rebuke. Something.

The problem, of course, is the PGA Tour's archaic policy of not disclosing player discipline. The attitude is that what we don't know won't hurt us -- or might hurt them. But this isn't tossing a club in anger or being heard swearing on TV -- violations that routinely bring fines but are never announced.

Finchem needs to address it because gambling issues in sports are so serious and potentially damaging. This is not to say in any way that Mickelson went down that road. But his representatives did say in relation to the SEC finding that he was taking "full responsibility'' for his actions. That would suggest he is doing so as it relates to his relationship with Walters as well.

If a golfer gets too deep with a gambler, what is to say the next time he has a 54-hole lead he doesn't tank the final round?

Nobody is suggesting Mickelson did anything of the sort. He conceivably has the means -- some $80 million in prize money alone in his career, almost $50 million in endorsement income just last year, according to Golf Digest -- to handle any gambling issues he might have encountered. That doesn't explain what happened, but at the very least, Mickelson owes an explanation to Finchem, who in turn needs to let the world know.

The commissioner cannot hide behind his arcane privacy policy on this one. It would be impossible not to notice a suspension with Mickelson, one of the game's most popular players. And if a suspension is not the best scenario here, perhaps there is some other censure that is just as effective. But to say nothing suggests Finchem did nothing -- which doesn't exactly help curb the behavior or scare others into thinking twice about doing something similar.

Who knows why Mickelson got involved with Walters? It is no secret that Lefty loves the action -- his Tuesday practice-round games are legendary, and are an area where the tour looks the other way -- and in the past he talked openly about Super Bowl bets and the like. And he's always had a gambling nature on the course, which has long endeared him to fans.

While the link to Walters is explained in the SEC findings, Mickelson has never publicly discussed their relationship. When federal agents approached him two years ago at the Memorial Tournament following one of his rounds, Mickelson took several questions from reporters on site and basically deflected all of them.

"I have done absolutely nothing wrong,'' he said then. "And that's why I've been fully cooperating with the FBI agents, and I'm happy to do so in the future, until this gets resolved.''

It is now resolved legally, but not with the PGA Tour. Given his illustrious career and all the good he has done in the game, Mickelson deserves the benefit of the doubt. But that doesn't mean Finchem can sit by and wait for his tenure to end and let this pass.

This is not about embarrassing the five-time major champion -- who just last week was named the ambassador for the PGA Tour's Career Builder Challenge in Southern California.

This is about the tour tackling a serious issue and being transparent about it -- with one of its most iconic players at the forefront.