It didn’t take long for Phil Mickelson to grab all the headlines after finishing his last round Sunday at the Humana Challenge in La Quinta, Calif. Mickelson had shot 66-66 on the weekend to finish T-37, but the headlines have been about what he said and not about his improved play on the weekend.
I was out and about in Jupiter, Fla. Monday morning, and there was lots of talk about his comments about possibly leaving his home in California because of increased taxes, or even, as he intimated, retiring. Brian Katrek on his Teed Off morning show on PGA Tour Radio was saying that who knows, maybe Mickelson, who is 42, would even move to Jupiter. Many PGA Tour players, including Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson, live in the area. Florida has no state income tax, one reason so many wealthy tour golfers live in the state. Katrek was joking around, sort of, and said there are so many players in Jupiter that a series of tournaments in the area would get a great field. He’s probably right.
Anyway, Mickelson has always been one of the most quotable golfers. This time, he got on a soapbox and said a mouthful. He’s wealthy and he’s entitled to move where he wants. But suddenly hardly anybody was talking about Brian Gay’s win in a playoff at the Humana. Nobody was talking about Jamie Donaldson beating Justin Rose at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship. Did Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy miss the cut at Abu Dhabi? Oh yes, they did. That seemed a long time ago.
Mickelson’s comments were particularly timely, one might say, given that Barack Obama had taken the oath of office for his second term as U.S. president the very day that the four-time major champion was playing his final round at the Humana. The inauguration is today. I’m watching it as I write. Mickelson promised that he would speak at more length about what he’s thinking about during this week’s Farmers Insurance Open in La Jolla, Calif., not far from where he lives in Rancho Santa Fe. That should be lively press conference.
The whole thing started when a reporter at the Humana asked Mickelson about Steve Stricker’s recent announcement that he would be cutting back his schedule. Mickelson used the question as a jumping-off point for how he feels about having to pay more taxes. Californians voted in November for Proposition 30, the state’s first tax increase since 2004. The proposition places a 13.3-percent tax rate on incomes above $1 million. He backed off becoming part of a group that had bought the San Diego Padres for $800 million not long after voters approved Proposition 30.
It will be interesting to see how much Mickelson elaborates on his comments when he speaks to the media at Torrey Pines, the site of the Farmers Insurance Open. PGA Tour players are not known for getting on a podium to discuss their political views. But, clearly, Mickelson is aggrieved. He’s not happy that Obama is setting off on his second term, given its implications for his personal financial situation. He’s not happy about Proposition 30. Will he back off his comments? Or will he go deeper?
Here’s the transcript of Mickelson’s interview on Sunday. More to come this week, or so he has said.
Q. When you're asked about Stricker's semi retirement, with the political situation the last couple months, blah, blah, blah, what did you mean by that? Do you find it an unsettling time in a way?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it's been an interesting offseason. And I'm going to have to make some drastic changes. I'm not going to jump the gun and do it right away, but I will be making some drastic changes.
Q. Meaning leaving from California?
PHIL MICKELSON: I'm not sure.
Q. Moving to Canada?
PHIL MICKELSON: I'm not sure what exactly, you know, I'm going to do yet. I'll probably talk about it more in depth next week. I'm not going to jump the gun, but there are going to be some. There are going to be some drastic changes for me because I happen to be in that zone that has been targeted both federally and by the state and, you know, it doesn't work for me right now. So I'm going to have to make some changes.
Q. Is that a correlation between that and what happened to the Padres?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah.
Q. With you?
PHIL MICKELSON: Absolutely.
Q. So why do you say next week? What is going to happen so drastic next week?
PHIL MICKELSON: No, but I'll probably be in the media center and I'll probably be a little more open to it because San Diego is where a lot more things, it's where I live, it's where the Padre thing was a possibility, and it's where my family is. And it just seems like a better fit than right here off of 18 on Palm Springs.
Q. Is it a stance that you are taking because on the one hand, you've made a lot of money, and no matter how much they take out, you are left with a lot of money?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah. I'll probably go into it more next year or next week. But if you add up, if you add up all the federal and you look at the disability and the unemployment and the Social Security and the state, my tax rate's 62, 63 percent. So I've got to make some decisions on what I'm going to do.
Q. How do you balance that against the TOUR's retirement plan which by all standards is the best retirement plan in sports?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't understand. What do you mean?
Q. Well, I mean I understand the 60 percent part of the equation, but in the TOUR's plan, you guys put about as much money aside as you want. It's treated differently under tax laws than most anybody else's tax plans. Where most people can only put away $45,000 or $50,000, you guys can put as much away as you want. And so at the end you guys end up with a much larger pot of gold than most people can.
PHIL MICKELSON: But when it comes out, it's still taxed at the same 62 percent rate.
Q. Well, you're still making that kind of money. That's if you're still in that bracket.
PHIL MICKELSON: (No response.)
RELATED LINK: More blogs from Lorne Rubenstein
Lorne Rubenstein has written a golf column for The Globe and Mail since 1980. He has played golf since the early 1960s and was the Royal Canadian Golf Association’s first curator of its museum and library at the Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario and the first editor of Score, Canada’s Golf Magazine, where he continues to write a column and features. He has won four first-place awards from the Golf Writers Association of America, one National Magazine Award in Canada, and he won the award for the best feature in 2009 from the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. Lorne has written 12 books, including Mike Weir: The Road to the Masters (2003); A Disorderly Compendium of Golf, with Jeff Neuman (2006); This Round’s on Me (2009); and the latest Moe & Me: Encounters with Moe Norman, Golf’s Mysterious Genius (2012). He is a member of the Ontario Golf Hall of Fame and the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame. Lorne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . You can now follow him on Twitter @lornerubenstein