Phil Mickelson had a bad weekend on the golf course and was almost 20 strokes behind the leader, Tiger Woods, when play was suspended Sunday in the Farmers Insurance Open tournament at Torrey Pines. But as poorly as he hit the ball, it was nothing as to how badly Mickelson misplayed public remarks about his finances. What he said, essentially, was that taxes were eating him up and it might be time to take drastic steps. The most obvious of which, implicitly, would be moving out of California where the tax on income over $1 million is 13.3 percent. If Mickelson were to relocate, the obvious place would be Florida, which Tiger Woods and many other professional golfers call their home state and where there is no income tax. Imagine that.
There was the usual huffing and puffing about how much money Mickelson makes – $60.7 million last year – and how he could afford to pay a few million more. The guy's job is playing golf, after all, and he ought to consider himself lucky and pay up cheerfully.
Mickelson hastily apologized. Then apologized again. Not so much for what he said as for saying it out loud. Shouldn't talk about your personal finances in public forums. Bad form.
One suspects the apology was sincere. Mickelson strikes one as almost guileless. On the course he just goes with his instincts and sometimes it pays off gloriously as when he threads a gap between two loblolly pines as Augusta and puts the ball eight feet or so from the pin. And then, there are the times when he sends a tee shot into a garbage can to lose the U.S. Open. Mickelson is the most gallery-friendly player in the world and people turn out to follow him. He signs autographs, does high fives, and when an errant shot hits someone's wrist watch, Mickelson pulls out his money clip and peels off a few bills to cover the damage.
That sort of thing brings fans to the course when Mickelson is playing and pumps up the ratings of the television coverage. More beer and souvenirs balls and towels are sold at the course. More parking fees collected. More security personnel hired.
If Mickelson is filing in his calendar for the next few months and comes to a tournament that his being played in the Midwest in July, might he not think, You know, even if I win that thing, I'm going to keep less than half the purse. I've got expenses and I'm not getting any younger. Why not take a pass on that one and stay home with Amy and the girls. Spend a little time at the beach.
So, smaller galleries and lower ratings for the tournament. Lower souvenir sales and not so much hiring. Less economic activity than there would have been. And, even, less money for California than if Mickelson had played and made the cut.
A clear case of heavy taxation depressing economic activity. Not to mention taking some of the fun out of life since any golf tournament is better when Mickelson is playing.
Plainly, Mickelson should go on and move to Florida, then. He owes it to his fans.