Phil Mickelson may quit golf due to rising taxes

Stephen Dunn

Phil Mickelson whines that increasing taxes may force him to make "drastic changes," including, perhaps, retiring from professional golf.

Phil Mickelson had a terrific weekend and finished at 17-under after struggling in his first round at last week's Humana Challenge. But it wasn’t Mickelson's three straight rounds in the 60s after an opening 72 that had tongues wagging; it was his indirect threat to quit golf because of rising federal and California state taxes.

“It’s been an interesting off-season,” Mickelson, making his first start of 2013, said Sunday after carding a 6-under 66 at La Quinta Country Club, “and I’m going to have to make some drastic changes.

“I’m not going to jump the gun and do it right away,” Lefty told reporters, “but I will be making some drastic changes.”

Like turning around and swinging the club from the right side? Sticking with one putter and putter grip? Putting a halt to his endless tinkering with his golf gear?

Probably none of the above, as Mickelson suggested he may move from his home state of California, or walk away from golf, because Uncle Sam was taking too much out of his extremely deep pockets. He pledged to disclose more details about his future prior to this week’s Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in San Diego.

"I'm not going to jump the gun, but 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," he said. "So I'm going to have to make some changes."

Mickelson, who resides in Rancho Santa Fe, appeared to be responding to the first state-wide tax increase since 2004, which California voters approved in November in the form of Proposition 30.

"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," said Mickelson, who said tax increases and his decision to bow out of a deal to be part-owner of the San Diego Padres were related. "So I've got to make some decisions on what I'm going to do."

Mickelson did not rule out leaving California, or even moving to Canada.

“I’m not sure what exactly, you know, I’m going to do yet,” he said, noting that he would likely have more to say from Torrey Pines.

"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," Mickelson said. "And it just seems like a better fit than right here off of 18 on Palm Springs."

Boo-frickin-hoo, Phil. We’re guessing the self-serving gripes of a multimillionaire golfer ranked seventh on Forbes 2012 list of highest-paid athletes, who earned some $47.8 million in prize money and endorsements as of mid-June, won’t sit well with many of his fans who, living and toiling in the real world, can only dream about paydays like the $1.1 million he made for winning last year’s Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

Maybe it was the flu talking...

Here’s a snippet of Mickelson’s Q&A after Sunday’s Humana Challenge finale:

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.)

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