Mickelson hints at making some 'drastic changes'

Tue, Jan 22, 2013, 00:00

After a middle-of-the-pack finish in his 2013 debut, Phil Mickelson stood off the 18th green at the Palmer Private course at PGA West on Sunday and talked about having to make, in his own words, “drastic changes”.

He was not referring to his equipment. Mickelson, already one of the highest-earning athletes on the planet, is not considering switching the clubs in his bag or the clothes on his back, the way the world number one, Rory McIlroy, did last week after signing a lucrative endorsement deal with Nike.

On the day when US president Barack Obama was sworn in for his second term, Mickelson sent shock waves through the Humana Challenge when he said the political landscape in the United States was causing him to seriously contemplate his future in golf.

Mickelson, who will turn 43 in June, has 40 PGA Tour victories, including four Majors, and was inducted last year into the World Golf Hall of Fame.

“I’m not going to jump the gun and do it right away,” he said after carding a six-under-par 66 to finish in a 10-way tie for 37th, “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. So I’m going to have to make some changes.”

Scintillating conclusion

As Mickelson spoke, the tournament was winding down to a scintillating conclusion. Brian Gay, who began the final round six strokes off the lead, closed with a 9-under 63 to end regulation tied with David Lingmerth (62) and Charles Howell III (64). He won with a five-foot birdie on the second hole of the sudden-death play-off.

Scott Stallings, the 54-hole leader, made his first bogey of the tournament on his seventh hole and finished with a 70 to tie for fourth with James Hahn, who capped his 62 with an eagle-three at the 18th.

Finishing eight strokes out of the play-off was Mickelson, who played the final three rounds in 17 under par but could not climb out of the hole he dug for himself with an even-par 72 start at La Quinta Country Club.

“I played better as the week wore on,” Mickelson said. He added: “I feel like I’m starting to play some pretty good golf.”

Mickelson, the reigning champion at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, has more than €50 million in career earnings since turning professional in 1992. Last year, he was ranked by Forbes magazine as the seventh highest-paid athlete, with €40 million in earnings, including €32 million in endorsements.

“If you add up all the federal and you look at the disability and the unemployment and the Social Security and state, my tax rate is 62, 63 per cent,” Mickelson said. “So I’ve got to make some decisions on what to do.”

Mickelson, who lives with his wife, Amy, and their three children in San Diego, his hometown, said he planned to elaborate on his comments in more detail this week when the tour stopped in his backyard, at Torrey Pines in La Jolla. “It’s been an interesting offseason,” said Mickelson, who cracked open a window into his thought process last week during a teleconference.

Semi-retirement

Asked if he has considered following his US Ryder Cup team-mate Steve Stricker, another 40-something golfer, into semi-retirement, Mickelson replied: “You know, I think that we’re all going to have our own way of handling things, handling time in our career, our family, handling what’s going on the last couple of months politically. I think we’re all going to have to find things that work for us.”

In December, Mickelson, who was part of a group that had bought the San Diego Padres four months earlier, abruptly announced that he was no longer involved in the business deal. His reversal came shortly after California voters approved Proposition 30, which imposed a 13.3 per cent tax rate on incomes of more than $1 million.

Asked on Sunday if the election results played a role in his decision to severe his ties with the Padres’ ownership group, Mickelson replied: “Yeah, absolutely.”

In vowing to discuss his thinking in more detail at Torrey Pines, Mickelson said: “I’ll probably be a little more open to it because San Diego is 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 in Palm Springs.”

New York Times

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