Mickelson says he will make 'drastic changes'

By Jason SobelJanuary 21, 2013, 3:32 pm

Phil Mickelson has spent an entire career as the people's champion. He's followed major championship heartbreak by signing autographs until the last fan left happy. He's hugged all the grandmothers and kissed all the babies. He has a connection to those outside the gallery ropes like no professional golfer since Arnold Palmer.

You could say his last two decades have been a study in how to win friends and influence people.

All of which makes his most recent proclamation so quizzical.

Following his final round at the Humana Challenge on Sunday, Mickelson said he will need to make “drastic changes” going forward. Now, it’s still unclear what these drastic changes could entail – they could be anything from limiting his playing schedule to simply moving to another state – but the cause of them is clear.

More on Mickelson and Proposition 30

It’s all in reaction to Proposition 30, passed by the state of California last November, which significantly impacts those who have a taxable annual income of more than $1 million.

“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,” Mickelson said after finishing in a share of 37th place. “So I'm going to have to make some changes.”

Again, there’s no telling yet what these changes might be, though Mickelson alluded to the fact that he would allow more insight prior to this week’s Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines.

Maybe it’s reading too much into his comments, but if this decision includes playing less golf, it would go against so much of what Mickelson has tried to stand for during his career.

This is a man who despite ranking second in PGA Tour career earnings has always found a connection with Joe Fan – and with whom Joe Fan has always felt a connection. Limiting his playing schedule due to injury or wanting to spend more time with family – as Steve Stricker will do this year – wouldn’t repel those fans.

Doing so based on new tax codes doesn’t exactly follow suit.

“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's 62, 63 percent,” he explained. “So I've got to make some decisions on what I'm going to do.”

Obviously, that 62-63 percent tax rate is monumental and one that can seriously affect Mickelson’s personal life. According to Forbes magazine, he made a combined $47.8 million last year in both on- and off-course earnings. Do the math and that’s a significant chunk of change that he stands to give up due to Prop 30.

That said, good luck to him getting empathy from a fan base that largely can’t process figures that large. One of the cardinal rules for those who get paid big bucks to play a game for a living is that you can’t complain about any complications that derive from getting paid big bucks to play a game for a living.

If Mickelson is guilty of anything so far, it’s using his inside voice while the microphones were on. This topic has apparently been weighing on his mind for a while, but when it was broached Sunday he spoke about it only coyly, deflecting his decision for later this week at Torrey Pines.

“I'm not sure what exactly, you know, I'm going to do yet,” he said. “I'll probably talk about it more in depth next week. I'm not going to jump the gun, but there are going to be some. There are going to be some drastic changes for me.”

What does that mean, exactly? We’ll likely find out more in coming days. If it’s simply a matter of Mickelson moving his family from California to avoid the tax code but doesn’t affect his professional schedule, well, the impact won’t be felt much beyond his own household. If it means, though, that he will only compete in a limited number of tournaments or won’t play certain events in California, it will have a much bigger effect on how he’s viewed publicly.

Most professional golfers may not worry about public response to such a personal matter, but Mickelson isn’t most professional golfers. He has gone out of his way over the years to ensure that he is the most beloved golfer of his generation, ingratiating himself to the fans more so than any of his peers.

There’s no doubt Prop 30 will have an effect on the bottom line of his bank statement. Addressing it privately will ensure his status remains intact. Letting the new tax rate lead to “drastic changes” in his career, though, could directly impact how Mickelson is viewed by the legions of fans who have revered him for so long.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


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The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.

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Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.

The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.

It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.

"It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.

Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.

"This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."