Mickelson responds to outcry over his tax comments

Phil Mickelson watches his tee shot on the 14th hole during the final round of the Humana Challenge.

Phil Mickelson watches his tee shot on the 14th hole during the final round of the Humana Challenge.

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Editor's note: Updating story with Mickelson's response on Tuesday morning:

• • •

Phil Mickelson didn't wait for his normal pre-tournament press conference to address his comments about looming tax questions that he will face in his native California.

On Tuesday morning, he released this statement:

"I know I have my usual pre-tournament press conference scheduled this week but I felt I needed to address the comments I made following the Humana Challenge now.

"I absolutely love what I do. I love and appreciate the game of golf and the people who surround it. I’m as motivated as I’ve ever been to work on my game, to compete and to win championships.

"Right now, I’m like many Americans who are trying to understand the new tax laws. I’ve been learning a lot over the last few months and talking with people who are trying to help me make intelligent and informed decisions. I certainly don’t have a definitive plan at this time, but like everyone else I want to make decisions that are best for my future and my family.

"Finances and taxes are a personal matter and I should not have made my opinions on them public. I apologize to those I have upset or insulted and assure you I intend to not let it happen again."

• • •

Here is our story from Sunday . . .

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Phil Mickelson gave a civics lesson after his play Sunday in the final round of the Humana Challenge. The lecture: I’m not going to pay more in taxes than I can take home to my wife and kids.

As a longtime California resident, Mickelson vented after shooting a final-round 66 for a 17-under 271 total and tie for 37th in his 2013 debut. Last fall, Californians approved Proposition 30, which boosts the state income tax to 13.3 percent on earnings of $1 million or more. That’s a 29.1 percent increase from the previous “millionaires tax” in a state with tremendous fiscal issues.

Compound that increased liability with the recent changes to the federal tax code, which bumps the top bracket to 39.6 percent from 35 percent to avoid going over the so-called fiscal cliff, and Mickelson’s tax hit is substantial.

“Well, it’s been an interesting off‑season, and I’m going to have to make some drastic changes,” said Mickelson, who lives with his wife and three children in Rancho Santa Fe, near San Diego. “And I’m not going to jump the gun and do it right away, but I will be making some drastic changes.”

When asked whether the “drastic changes” meant moving from California to another state or perhaps even country, Mickelson would say only that he was not sure.

“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 is 62, 63 percent,” Mickelson said. “I’ve got to make some decisions on what I am going to do.”

Mickelson, 42, has earned $67,677,098 on the golf course and considerably more off the golf course in a Hall of Fame career during which he has won 40 PGA Tour events, including four major championships.

Forbes magazine reported last year that Mickelson earned $43 million in endorsements in 2012. In the magazine’s list of highest-paid athletes, Mickelson ranked seventh, behind boxers Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, Tiger Woods, basketball players LeBron James and Kobe Bryant and tennis’ Roger Federer.

Mickelson did not mention retirement, but his comments about “drastic changes” could include quitting golf or moving out of California. That might prove to be unappealing, given the Mickelsons’ three school-age children – Amanda, 13, Sophia, 11, and Evan, 9 – in an area where Mickelson has lived for most of his life and with parents nearby.

“I’ll probably be a little bit more open to it,” said Mickelson, adding that he will expand on his thoughts about “drastic changes” next week when the Tour visits San Diego, his hometown, for the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines. Mickelson recently bowed out of potential part ownership of baseball’s San Diego Padres. It’s an area where he will be more comfortable talking about his future.

“It’s where I live, it’s where the Padre thing was a possibility, and it’s where my family is,” Mickelson said, “and it just seems like a better fit than right here off of 18 in Palm Springs.”

Mickelson first discussed the political changes when on the champions’ teleconference for the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am earlier this week.

The subject of Steve Stricker’s decision to play fewer tournaments came up, and Mickelson’s answer was a precursor to his statements here Sunday.

“I think that we’re all going to have our own kind of way of handling things, handling time in our career, our family, handling what’s gone on the last couple of months politically,” Mickelson said. “I think we’re all going to have to find things that work for us. And it’s not surprising at all. It makes perfect sense for a number of reasons, not just the ones that he gave about spending more time at home. I totally get it.”

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