Mickelson handles uproar with humor

Mickelson handles uproar with humor

Published Jan. 23, 2013 12:00 a.m. ET

In case you missed what happened Sunday at the Humana Challenge, Phil Mickelson talked a few minutes behind the 18th green about his dislike of paying higher taxes and, oh, by the way: Brian Gay won a three-man playoff.

So if you’re scoring headlines at home: IRS 1, Gay 0.

On the other hand, Gay will gladly cash the $1,008,000 check and, of course, pay less in taxes than Mickelson because he lives in Florida and makes a few bucks less annually. Check that. Few million less.

A mulligan


When Mickelson said he needs to make “drastic changes” when complaining about tax hikes for high earners, my first thought was: What do ditch diggers, bus drivers, dish washers, unemployed people or any other two-word category besides pro golfer think of that?

Apparently Mickelson realized that himself, for in apologizing Wednesday for the second day in a row he said his public remarks were insensitive to “people who do not have jobs or live paycheck to paycheck.”

My second thought was this: Who does like paying 50 percent or more on what one earns?

In that regard, I’m not sure Mickelson needed to apologize. But he did handle himself in a contrite, self-deprecating manner Wednesday at a Farmers Insurance Open news conference at Torrey Pines.

Smiling most of the time, he compared his rant to his drive way left off the tents on the 72nd hole of the 2006 US Open, saying this mistake was “way right” off the tents. He said he should have learned from that lesson and, metaphorically, wedged back to the fairway this time instead of trying to carve a 3-iron again. And he admitted he has said many other stupid things in the past.

He also said he shouldn’t have used his celebrity status in a way that might impact change. I’m not sure I agree with that if he feels so passionately about it. Why not speak up if he believes his beloved home state of California needs to amend and keep from losing businesses and residents? (Yes, the answer is money, as in sponsorships.)

Further, Mickelson clarified that his apology was for talking about it publicly.

In the golf parlance, he took a mulligan and made the most of it. But then the second-shot Hall of Fame is a crowded shrine, as anyone who has dropped a second ball and hit a perfect shot knows.

Where to?

Mickelson said Wednesday that he’s not sure what his plan for change is yet and said he didn’t want to speculate on whether that might be a move to another state, such as one of the several that don’t have state income tax, including Florida, Texas and Nevada.

Since he’s still kicking the tires on the latest “What will Phil do next?” topic, here are a few possibilities for him to consider:

• Move to tax-friendly Monaco and become a full-time blackjack player.
• Move to Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., and become the next PGA Tour commissioner and combine golf with politics.
• Move to Texas, run for Congress and, if elected, try to pass legislation that eliminates entitlements, except for courtesy cars and free meals and free everything else that touring pros are used to.
• Move to Jupiter, Fla., join the Medalist Club and try to finally get a practice round with Tiger Woods.

More than Mickelson

Besides Gay’s victory, also lost in the fuss around Mickelson was the continuation of the PGA Tour’s accelerated youth movement. Had Scott Stallings held on to his five-stroke lead or David Lingmerth won the playoff, it would have been the first time since 1977 that the first three tournaments of the year were won by players in their 20s.

A week after rookie Russell Henley outdueled fellow rookie Scott Langley at the Sony Open, a couple of other newcomers made Sunday noise at the Humana.

Swede Lingmerth closed with 62 and got into the playoff in just his second PGA Tour start. Fellow rookie James Hahn, a native of South Korea, also closed with 62 in just his third tour start and finished a shot out of the playoff.

Get used to it, for golf talent seems to be getting deeper than ever. There are so many little-known players these days that the golf fan needs to watch with a media guide in hand. Either that or keep asking, “Who?”

Split decision?

It seems the idea of bifurcation — different rules for professionals and amateurs — seems to have more momentum than ever before. The proposed ban on anchoring long and belly putters, of course, has ramped up the topic.

Last week, Gary Player told me that he strongly feels anchoring should be banned for professionals but not amateurs.

“Amateurs must come first,” he said. “They come out to have fun. We are already destroying their fun by making courses longer and more difficult.”

Amen to that.

And on Wednesday, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, a day after a players’ meeting on the topic, said he personally thinks situational bifurcation is OK. Finchem also said there’s no data that suggest there is a competitive advantage to anchoring.

“Certain parts of the rules can be bifurcated and not hurt anything,” Finchem said.

He added that if the governing bodies decide on anchoring bifurcation for pros and amateurs, the tour would consider allowing anchoring on the Champions Tour.

Thing is, the game has been bifurcated for years. Let’s just say Bubba Watson plays different tees and uses different shafts, clubheads and balls than you and I.