Phil Puts Backspin On Tax Comments


Phil Mickelson is known as “The People’s Champion” and is often compared to Arnold Palmer when it comes to interacting with fans. Phil is also known for his prowess in press conferences as well. It seems he misfired on both fronts after his final round at the Humana Challenge Sunday. From AP writer John Nicholson’s story

Phil Mickelson has hinted at a move away from California, perhaps the United States and maybe even away from golf as he seeks to escape punitive tax rates.

“It’s been an interesting offseason,” Mickelson said Sunday after the final round of the Humana Challenge. “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.”

In short, Mickelson, like many pro athletes, is in the highest income tax bracket. He also lives in California which recently passed Proposition 30 (read it if you’re a tax nerd or have nothing better to do). Essentially, Prop 30 is an increase in income taxes that greatly effects Mickelson. It’s interesting that Phil said he didn’t want to “jump the gun” but he brought the topic up to a small group of writers anyway. There certainly was no need to bring up his personal tax issues.  More from the AP story…

Last year, Mickelson flirted with becoming a part owner of the San Diego Padres, the baseball team that sold for $800 million in August. He was asked Sunday if there was a correlation between the tax increases and what happened to the Padres’ deal.

“Absolutely,” Mickelson said.

As one can imagine, complaints about tax increases from an athlete who has earned $70 million in career prize money, and makes something in the neighborhood of $40 million annually in endorsements from, among others, accounting firm KPMG didn’t go over very well. Certainly Mickelson earned every penny he has but in this economic climate it is simply bad PR to make comments like this.

Mickelson did issue a statement through his spokesman T.R. Heinman…

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…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.

Probably a wise choice to back off of this, but there won’t be much respite. Mickelson is scheduled to have a press conference at the Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego Wednesday. In his original comments, Mickelson stated that he would go into more detail about his future plans at that time. Most speculation has suggested that Phil will either follow the lead of Steve Stricker and play a reduced number of tournaments going forward or perhaps move to a state with lower (or no) taxes like Texas or Florida. It certainly will be interesting to hear Phil’s response and plans. You can bet it will be carefully planned, if not scripted to avoid the backlash of his original comments Sunday.



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