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Saturday Sports: Women's World Cup; Phil Mickelson's gambling; Caitlin Clark sculpture

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Tell the band it's time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: Women's World Cup. Phil Mickelson - big-time golfer, big-time gambler. And a home state honor for Caitlin Clark. Michele Steele of ESPN joins us. Michele, thanks for being with us.

MICHELE STEELE: Sure. Love the NPR marching band, as always.

SIMON: Yeah, I - you ought to see them on the field sometime. In any event, World Cup, Women's World Cup quarterfinals. Australia, the host country, knocked out France earlier today. Mon Dieu. Mon Dieu. And (singing in English accent) ole, ole, ole, ole. England just beat Colombia 2-1. We had the game on here. Lots of exciting action, isn't there?

STEELE: Oh, yeah, definitely. Huge morning, Scott, for soccer fans. Heck of an effort from Colombia, but England rose to the challenge. They came from behind to win that game. Now, it was an even more dramatic showdown between Australia and France. They played to a scoreless draw. Ultimately, it was decided by one of the most dramatic penalty shootouts of the tournament.

SIMON: Yeah.

STEELE: Twenty players kicking a penalty when, finally, Cortnee Vine found the back of the net to give The Matildas, as the Australia team is known, as 7-6 win in penalties over a really, really stout French team. So all this, Scott, means that Australia advances to face England in the semis in Sydney on Wednesday. I've heard these two countries have a little bit of history here, so...

SIMON: Eh, small bit, yeah. Same...

STEELE: (Laughter).

SIMON: ...History we have with Great Britain, yeah.

STEELE: Indeed. Yeah. So it could be a good one.

SIMON: Other semifinal game - Sweden, after beating Japan, and Spain comes into the semifinals for the first time with a lot of momentum after their win over the Netherlands. What do you expect?

STEELE: Yeah. You know what? You can call Sweden the giant killers of this tournament after they eliminated Japan. Japan was the last of the former Women's World Cup winners in the competition, which means whoever wins this thing, it's going to be a first. As for Spain, they're coming off a win over the Netherlands, which you mentioned, with a teenager coming off the bench in extra time, Salma Paralluelo. She scored the winning goal for them. Now, real quick here, Sweden's done a really good job this tournament of disrupting teams early from getting into their rhythm, so we could very well see similar tactics in how they approach Spain. Tuesday should be a lot of fun.

SIMON: Boy, this new book by Billy Walters, the renowned sports bettor, is making news. In an excerpt, he alleges that Phil Mickelson, the great golfer, has wagered more than - (clears throat) this is not a misprint - $1 billion over the last 30 years. And he has lost close to $100 million. Now, Phil Mickelson has been pretty open about what he refers to as a gambling addiction, but these numbers are breathtaking, aren't they?

STEELE: Yeah, it's eye-popping. It's gobsmacking. A billion - with a B - dollars was allegedly bet. And according to the book, Mickelson even wanted to place a $400,000 bet on the 2012 Ryder Cup, which you may remember he was playing in...

SIMON: Yeah.

STEELE: ...For Team USA. You know, Billy Walters is a famous sports gambler. He partnered up with Mickelson on some of those NBA and NFL bets. And these guys would place bigger bets together and split the proceeds 50/50. So, you know, Walters - there's a lot going on here, but Walters is seen as a reliable source. Now, he's coming off doing five years in prison for insider trading. He kind of blames Mickelson a little bit for that. So there's a lot going on there. But Rory McIlroy, who has an ongoing feud with Mickelson, said on this, at least Phil can bet on the Ryder Cup this year because he won't be a part of it. That is a sick burn. But, you know, all of this...

SIMON: Yeah.

STEELE: ...Comes among increased scrutiny in legalized sports gambling, Scott.

SIMON: Finally, Caitlin Clark - the honor of all time at the Iowa State Fair. What is it?

STEELE: It's a big statue made out of butter of Caitlin Clark. It's awesome for her. She's a huge star in women's basketball. Michelangelo, eat your heart out.

SIMON: (Laughter) Michele Steele of ESPN, you melted our hearts. Thank you.

STEELE: (Laughter). Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.