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Jan 22

Two Sure Things: Golf and Taxes

Phil Mickelson and Taxes

I had almost forgotten that it was the time of year for good old Uncle Sam to come around with his palm out. Just as you’re crawling out of the stupor created by Christmas and New Year, there he is, hat extended, stern look and all. This year, we’re told, he’s going to look a little sterner than usual. Some of us may barely notice it, while others are taking major hits, especially in the state of California. It’s like a mix of Abraham Lincoln and Halloween, and it’s not pretty, kinder or gentler.

One California golfer we all know and love is taking it personally. Phil Mickelson must have had a terrible night crunching numbers, because he claims to be under a tax burden of over 62% with the combination of federal and state obligations. If it’s true, I can’t blame him. It would take a lot less than that to rile me. The future Hall of Famer has won forty times on the tour, and has big plans for the future. At that age, we figure that he’s preparing to enter the early twilight of the PGA tour years (which means that he could win a lot more before reaching the real twilight), and flex big for rolling over the opposition in the Champions. He’s won a lot of money over the years, but it’s all relative. It’s all in the ratio of income and outgo, no matter how big the numbers are. If Uncle Sam and Nephew Brown, fresh copy of Proposition 30 in hand, want to split 62% of those earnings, something’s got to be done about it.

phil 1Mickelson expressed something between concern and outrage over the matter, declaring that he would soon make “drastic changes” to counter the difficulty. Should he move from California? That was mentioned as a possibility, and doesn’t seem like all that rash an action. Millions of perfectly happy people don’t live there, and it’s not the only place to stay warm. The San Diego area is his family’s home, however, and one gets the feeling that he wants to live there – he just doesn’t want to pay as much as he currently does to live there.

The mere mention of Mickelson retiring from golf evokes a sigh of sadness. He’s part of the modern fabric of the game. We see him all the time, and want to keep seeing him. He’s the greatest lefty around, and Bob Charles is long retired. Where would we find another? He couldn’t be kidding himself this way. He’s got far too much golf still left in him. Usually, people who consider quitting have the reverse problem. Naw, Phil, you keep playing. We’ll figure something out.

Not long ago, Phil got the bug to buy into the San Diego Padres baseball team, and why not? Many athletes gather late-career investments in their sport, or others. The San Diego Padres, incidentally, sold for about 300 million, and Phil Mickelson is not one of the proud new owners. He is not without his suspicions as to why, either. Did his dangerous talk about taxes nix his participation in the deal? Perhaps we’ll never know. Wherever and whenever the IRS slithers through the paychecks, bank accounts and possessions in delinquency, they seldom leave a trace, like an arch-villain in a Sherlock Holmes drama.

So check your numbers again, Mr. Mickelson, and all you fellow pros do the same. If you’re coming up with anything like 62%, you’ve got to respond right away. Just don’t do what my great uncle Felix did – he decided to cut ties with the IRS entirely, and boy, did they ever make “drastic changes” to him!

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About the author

G.F. Skipworth

has spent every available moment playing golf or studying the greats since the 60s, in between world tours as a classical musician, Harvard studies in Government or as the author of a dozen novels. Nicklaus and Snead may be the statistical greats, but Skipworth is a life-long devotee of Gary Player, and considers meeting the South African at the Jeld-Wen to be an unforgettable milestone. His driving passion in golf these days is to raise viewer interest in the LPGA.