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Teed off: Golf star Phil Mickelson may bolt California over taxes

 

For golf legend Phil Mickelson, the low 60s makes for a great score on the links — and a lousy tax rate in his home state of California.

Mickelson said “drastic changes” are ahead for him due to federal and California state tax increases that have pushed his tax rate to what he figures adds up to “62, 63 percent.” The left-hander will talk more about his plans — possibly moving out of California or even retiring altogether — before his hometown Farmers Insurance Open, the San Diego-area event that begins Thursday at Torrey Pines.

"It's been an interesting off-season," Mickelson, 42, said Sunday after the final round of the Humana Challenge. "And I'm going to have to make some drastic changes. I'm not going to jump the gun and do it right away, but I will be making some drastic changes."

"I'm not going to jump the gun and do it right away, but I will be making some drastic changes."

- Phil Mickelson

Mickelson, who lives in Rancho Santa Fe, is unsure exactly what he’ll do, but changes will come, he said. If he bolts California, the San Diego native could be the Golden State's answer to actor Gerard Depardieu, who renounced his French citizenship and moved to Russia after the French government tried to jack up taxes on the rich.

“There are going to be some drastic changes for me because 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,” he said. “So I'm going to have to make some changes."

California voters in November approved Proposition 30, which, in addition to raising the state sales tax, carries a menu of new tax brackets that hit millionaires like Mickelson hard. For income exceeding $1 million, the state rate jumped to 13.3 percent from 10.3 percent. For Mickelson, who earned roughly $60 million in 2012, that would be a tax increase of more than $1.8 million.

"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," Mickelson said. "So I've got to make some decisions on what I'm going to do."

Mickelson, who flirted with becoming part owner of the San Diego Padres last year, said there was “absolutely” a correlation between the tax increases and the eventual failure to grab a piece of the Padres franchise, which ultimately sold for $800 million in August.

Mickelson, whose net worth is conservatively reported at more than $150 million, finished with a 66 on Sunday to tie for 37th at 17 under in his season debut. The Hall of Famer — nicknamed “Lefty” for his big left-handed swing — has 40 PGA Tour victories, including four majors, and his career earnings exceed $67 million, according to PGA statistics.

Mickelson, according to Sports Illustrated, was the second-highest earning athlete of 2012, second only to boxing’s Floyd Mayweather, Jr. Mickelson, who was also second on the list in 2011, earned $3.7 million in winnings and $57 million in endorsements last year — for a staggering total of $60,763,488. 

Details of Mickelson’s several endorsement deals — including partnerships with Callaway, Barclays and Rolex to name a few — are unknown, and his real estate holdings and other business ventures are not included in the Sports Illustrated tally.

Mayweather, by comparison, earned $85 million last year during just two fights and without any endorsement deals.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.