Mickelson speaks, says he 'learned his lesson' about tax comments

January 23, 2013
Helen Ross,

LA JOLLA, Calif. -- A standing-room only crowd of journalists and 17 TV cameras waited well over an hour on Wednesday for Phil Mickelson to appear for his pre-tournament press conference.

Once it began, the three-time Farmers Insurance Open champion wasn't asked a single question about his golf game. Instead, the focus was on the comments San Diego's favorite son made last Sunday that suggested he might make "drastic changes" due to rising California and federal taxes.

The comments caused Mickelson to issue a statement Monday evening apologizing to anyone offended by his words. He continued in that vein on Wednesday -- and even took the opportunity to poke fun at himself.

Mickelson likened the situation to the shot he hit way left into the hospitality tents on the 18th hole at Winged Foot that cost him the 2006 U.S. Open title.

"So this happened to be way right, but way off the tents," Mickelson said with a smile. "You know, I've made some dumb, dumb mistakes, and, obviously, talking about this stuff was one of them. Like Winged Foot, where I tried to carve a 3-iron around a tree and get it up by the green, I make double bogey and lose the U.S. Open.

"I think I'm going to learn my lesson and take a wedge and get it back in play."

Mickelson said he now feels he shouldn't have taken advantage of the forum he has as a professional golfer to try to affect political change. He plans to keep his thoughts private until he and his wife Amy have decided what to do.

When asked whether that decision might include moving to another state, presumably one that has no state income taxes, as he intimated on Sunday afternoon, Mickelson was vague.

"I love it here," he said. "I grew up in San Diego. And even though I went to college in Arizona, I dreamed of moving back here, because it's beautiful. My family's here. Amy's family is here. Our kids' grandparents are here. I love the community I live in."

Mickelson said he issued the statement on Monday night because he realized that he had been insensitive to those "people who are not able to find a job, that are struggling paycheck to paycheck." He knew he would have to revisit his comments on Wednesday but he didn't want to let them fester.

Taxes, Mickelson said, are not the problem. "I love this country, and I love the opportunities that it's afforded me to be successful and to do what I love," he said, adding that he's never had a problem paying "my fair share."

But Mickelson says he is struggling with "what that is right now."

The big lefthander will play with Brandt Snedeker, the defending champion, and Bubba Watson in the first two rounds at Torrey Pines. Mickelson, who shot 17 under at the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation last week in his 2013 PGA TOUR debut,says he doesn't expect his comments to be a distraction this week.

"I've said some stupid things in the past that have caused a media uproar before," Mickelson said with a smile. "It's part of my life, and I'll deal with it. It's just part of the deal. One of the things I pride myself on is whatever it is I'm dealing with in my personal life, once I get inside the ropes, I need to be able to focus on the shot at hand and be able to focus on shooting a low score."