Mickelson had suggested “drastic changes” were in store for him — perhaps moving from his native California — because of changes in federal and state taxes that he says tap into more than 60 percent of his income. He said it “absolutely” was a factor in deciding against becoming part of the San Diego Padres’ new ownership group.
The four-time major champion didn’t back away from his outlook, only his decision to talk about it.
“Finances and taxes are a personal matter, and I should not have made my opinions on them public,” Mickelson said in a statement released late Monday night. “I apologize to those I have upset or insulted, and assure you I intend to not let it happen again.”
Mickelson first made a cryptic reference to “what’s gone on the last few months politically” during a conference call two weeks ago for the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. After his final round Sunday of the Humana Challenge, he was asked what he meant.
“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 it doesn’t work for me right now,” he said. “So I’m going to have to make some changes.”
Mickelson had said he would wait until his news conference Wednesday at Torrey Pines to elaborate.
“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,” Mickelson said in his statement. “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.”
The response to Mickelson’s opinions on taxes ranged from mocking a guy who has become a multi-millionaire by playing golf for a living to support for having such a high tax rate and not being afraid to speak his mind. A majority of PGA Tour players live in Florida and others in Texas, two states that have no state income tax.
Tiger Woods grew up in Southern California and moved to Florida when he turned pro in 1996.
“I moved out of here back in ’96 for that reason,” Woods said.
“I enjoy Florida, but also I understand what he was — I think — trying to say,” Woods said of the Mickelson comments. “I think he’ll probably explain it better and in a little more detail.”
Mickelson is still scheduled to have his pre-tournament news conference Wednesday.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry even weighed in with this tweet: “Hey Phil….Texas is home to liberty and low taxes…we would love to have you as well!!”
Players at the Farmers Insurance Open privately questioned what Mickelson had to gain by complaining about his taxes.
Mickelson has earned just under $70 million in PGA Tour earnings for his career, which doesn’t include corporate endorsements or his golf course design company, which is thriving in China. Forbes magazine reported Mickelson earned over $40 million in endorsements last year, trailing only Woods among golfers.
Mickelson was raised in San Diego and, after playing golf at Arizona State, settled in the Phoenix area when he started his career before moving back home, about 20 miles north in Rancho Santa Fe.
In November, California voters approved Proposition 30, the first statewide tax increase since 2004.
“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 had said. “So I’ve got to make some decisions on what I’m going to do.”