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Mickelson Says He Was 'Insensitive' to Talk about Tax Situation
On Wednesday, Phil Mickelson talked in depth to the media about comments he had made on Sunday about the onerous tax situation in California and that he was considering moving away from his home state.
"You know, I've made some dumb, dumb mistakes, and, obviously, talking about this stuff was one of them," said a repentant Mickelson. "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. I made a big mistake talking about this stuff publicly, and I shouldn't have done that."
On Monday, Mickelson had already backtracked from his earlier remarks, noting in a statement, "Finances and taxes are a personal matter, and I should not have made my opinions on them public. I apologize to those I have upset or insulted, and assure you I intend not to let it happen again."
The four-time major champion reiterated those comments during his Q&A with reporters at Torrey Pines, where Mickelson often played growing up in San Diego as a junior golf and which serves as the host site for the Farmers Insurance Open. The $6.1 million PGA Tour event starts there on Thursday.
Below are the full contents of Mickelson's interview session with the media.
MODERATOR: Phil Mickelson, thank you for joining us for a few minutes here at the Farmers Insurance Open, three time winner of the event and obvious hometown favorite here. With that, just some opening comments and then we'll start in with some questions.
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, we're at a great spot here at Torrey Pines. It's an awesome golf course, and we're getting ready for a beautiful tournament. Last week was my first tournament out at Palm Springs. Started to play a little bit better as the week wore on. I'm looking forward to hopefully get in contention this weekend for the Farmers.
Q. Phil, what have the last 72 hours been like for you?
PHIL MICKELSON: Interesting (smiling).
Q. Could you elaborate?
PHIL MICKELSON: Karen, this reminds me a lot of Winged Foot in 2006, where I hit a drive way left off the tents. So this happened to be way right, but way off the tents. 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. I made a big mistake talking about this stuff publicly, and I shouldn't have done that.
Q. You said you took that wedge and hit it the wrong way. But, in reality, you didn't say anything wrong. You just said things that you feel. Do you feel it's unfair that there are people out there attacking you for something you said that isn't technically wrong, in fact, it's quite technically correct.
PHIL MICKELSON: My apology is for talking about it publicly, because I shouldn't take advantage of the forum that I have as a professional golfer to try to ignite change over these issues. I should have talked about - because I don't have a plan formulated yet on what I'm going to do. And when I do come up with a plan, and Amy and I have talked about it, and we've been working through this for a while, and I'll be able to talk more about it publicly then. But I shouldn't have brought it up publicly and used this platform as a way to say what I had to say.
Q. Just to stay on the Winged Foot theme, at what point did you realize you needed to hit wedge?
PHIL MICKELSON: About an hour ago (smiling).
Q. I was just curious, what caused you to think that?
PHIL MICKELSON: Six, seven years later I realized I should have just wedged back. I could have tried to make a par from the fairway, and maybe made a bogey and at worst be a Monday playoff.
Q. I'm curious from the statement that went out Monday night, what triggered your thinking that I need to address this now and say what you did Monday night?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think that it was insensitive to talk about it publicly to those people who are not able to find a job, that are struggling paycheck to paycheck. I think that was insensitive to discuss it in that forum. So that's why I issued a statement, because I shouldn't have brought it up at all, and I didn't want to wait until today.
Q. Is it in your plans to leave San Diego and establish residence in another state?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I brought up some of the options that I shouldn't have said on Sunday, and I don't know what I'm going to do yet. So I should not have brought it up then. I'm not going to bring it up now until I know exactly what I'm going to do. I don't want to speculate, but I'm not sure what we're going to do yet.
Q. At this point we're supposed to be talking about you being a member of Padres ownership. Can you talk about why we're not talking about that now?
PHIL MICKELSON: There were a number of reasons that that just wasn't the right fit. As I said earlier, I wasn't in a position at that time to make a commitment to the team and the community, and the current owners are. They're moving to San Diego. They're getting intricately involved in the community, and I think they're going to be great owners.
Q. But at the end of the day, was it something that you wanted that you couldn't fulfill, or is it something that you weren't sure about and decided not to do?
PHIL MICKELSON: I just didn't feel I was able to commit to being a part of the community at the time.
Q. There is a school of thought that people in your position with high profile are the perfect agents of change. To clarify, do you not agree with that?
PHIL MICKELSON: Possibly. Possibly. I don't think that it's necessarily me. I'm going to handle the situation the best we can privately, and then announce it publicly what we're going to do when we have a better idea.
Q. You're such a high profile member of the community. If you had to consider leaving, how difficult would that be to leave San Diego?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I love it here. 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.
Q. Here, in your statement, you've said it's a private decision and something that you and your family need to discuss, and ultimately whatever decisions are made will be made by you and your family. But to what extent are you sharing with others your situation, and are you hearing similar circumstances for those who you associate, friends, neighbors, that kind of thing?
PHIL MICKELSON: We have talked and will continue to talk to the best tax advisors and what have you. I've certainly - well, I love this state. I grew up here. I love it here, and I'm certainly concerned for it.
Q. What took you so long to get in here today?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I thought it was supposed to be at 1:00, so I felt like - I didn't want to be too early. I heard it was announced at 1:00, but just trying to gather my thoughts too.
Q. Phil, I'm not going to ask a tax question. I would like to ask, yesterday there was a mandatory players meeting, which I know that you didn't attend. But the discussion was a lot about anchoring. Can you talk about your feelings on the anchoring issue, first of all? And, second of all, as a professional athlete in the sport, if you think that the rules should be made by the athletes in this sport versus some other group?
PHIL MICKELSON: First off, I think that the athletes should not be making the rules. The PGA Tour should not be making the rules. We need an independent entity. I remember a conversation I had years ago with the commissioner about this, and it made perfect sense to me, that we have such varying views on things that to try to make rules internally that would be favoring some and not others as the wrong way to go about it, and we need to have an independent organization, in this case, the USGA and/or R&A as our governing bodies making the rules. We should not interfere. I do agree with that.
But as far as the anchoring, I have very mixed feelings on this. Because, although I feel that anchoring should not be part of a golf stroke, it was allowed 30 some odd years ago and should not be taken away. I feel that from studies I've heard of, specifically from Dave Pelz and his schools, that it's potentially half a million to a million golfers who would be so embarrassed at this inability to make a three foot putt with a regular putter that they may quit the game. And I care about the game. I want the game to succeed, and I don't want that to happen. I feel it's unfair for the players that have been putting that way for quite some time with the understanding that it was legal. So I have very mixed feelings about that. It should not have been allowed 30 years ago, but once it was allowed, I don't know how you change it.
Q. Are you at all concerned about all of this being a distraction for you at all as you move forward in the tournament?
PHIL MICKELSON: No, I mean, I've said some stupid things in the past that have caused a media uproar before. 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.
Q. What is the next dumbest thing?
PHIL MICKELSON: The next dumbest was probably right here in San Diego ten years ago talking about equipment. What a dumb thing that was. Yeah, I'm sure we can think of some pearls over the years, too (laughing).
Q. Can you talk a little bit about the North Course project and specifically this week when you're playing out there and talking or will you be talking to other players or are you more interested in the average, daily fee golfer's point of view on what you're thinking of the course or what people think should be done?
PHIL MICKELSON: We've been out on the course quite some time, spent a lot of time coming up with plans on each holes. In fact, three holes are out there, pictures and remnants of what it will look like. But I have very strong opinions on golf course architecture because I want to promote the game. And this is a perfect opportunity for me to present my thoughts, which is, we need to have parameters left and right, not front and back. We need to give the ground an opportunity for the player to run the ball on to the green. We can't have these forced carries.
The Torrey North project is an awesome project too because there's been so much grass put in that separates the holes from the canyon that we'll be able to bring some of that canyon element, that environment, that sand, and bring it back into the golf course and make you feel like you're part of the canyon. That it's right there. Still being playable, still being able to find your ball, but getting rid of acres of grass which would ultimately lower maintenance costs and lower water costs quite a bit. And I think it would make the golf course with the same green fees much more profitable than it currently is.
Q. Back to the taxes. I think you expressed something a lot of people feel. Nobody likes to pay their taxes. I'm just curious when you're faced with a huge tax bill, what does that feel like for you?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I love this country, and I love the opportunities that it's afforded me to be successful and to do what I love. So I've never had a problem with that before. I've never had a problem paying my fair share, because I know there are very few countries in the world that let you do what you do and live in this environment and have your personal possessions be secured through the court systems, through the police, through all the many things that this country offers. So I've never had a problem with that before.
Q. But you do now?
PHIL MICKELSON: I've never had a problem paying my fair share. I don't know what that is right now, but I've never had a problem paying my fair share.
Q. Were you at all, given the sensitive nature of the topic, were you at all worried about alienating fans?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think - I knew that that would happen, and, again, I should not have talked any type of politics or financial or taxation stuff publicly.
Q. What was the reaction when you were signing autographs? Were you getting ribbing?
PHIL MICKELSON: Not one. I mean, not one. I'm always up for an individual debate, but I should have never done it publicly.
Q. Should you decide to leave, you're going to keep your wonderful foundations that you have planted here, right?
PHIL MICKELSON: That's jumping the gun and looking ahead. I'm sure that - I don't know what we're going to do. But whatever community I live in, whether it's here or somewhere else, what have you, I want to be involved in that community. I want to have roots. I want to be a part of it. I want to try to make that community more successful and thrive and help the people that need it, wherever that may be. But I want it to be where I live.
MODERATOR: With that, we're going to let you go.
Q. Did you get any "What were you thinkings?"
PHIL MICKELSON: Only from me and my family, coach, D.R., a bunch of emails, yeah. Of course I got "What were you thinking," absolutely. Myself, sure. Thanks, guys.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.