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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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

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The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.