Sadly, Phil May be Losing me as a Fan

I should probably be writing about President Obama’s inauguration, and the “awesome” challenges facing him in his second term, or about the designer dress the First Lady is wearing, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. To tell the truth, I’ve already seen and heard as much as I want to about those topics (for now, anyway).

What’s bugging me this morning is a quote from Phil Mickelson.

If I understand the quote correctly, Phil is in danger of losing me as a fan. And I’ve been a Mickelson fan ever since he won the Northern Telecom Open as an amateur 22 years ago. I was impressed by his skill, of course, but it was his demeanor that charmed me. He seemed unflaggingly patient, polite and accommodating. Even when his game failed him, as it inevitably did from time to time, he stopped to talk amiably with the fans and the press.

I wish I could say the same about some of the other golfing greats. Tiger, for example, has been known to display flashes of ill temper and bad sportsmanship. But not Phil. He always behaved like a gentleman and a good sport. Until now.

Here’s the quote that got my goat:

If you add up all the federal (taxes) and you look at the disability and the unemployment and the Social Security and the state, my tax rate’s 62, 63 percent. So I’ve got to make some decisions on what I’m going to do.

It sounds as if Phil is complaining about paying too much taxes.

Here’s a guy who gets paid a fortune just to be Phil Mickelson. Some of it is earned, of course. He has won some 40 tournaments, including four major championships. And I don’t have to tell you how much those golf victories pay these days. While Sam Snead and Ben Hogan played for thousands, today’s PGA pros play for millions.

But a big chunk of the income that celebrities like Mickelson rake in comes from endorsements. They get paid just to be themselves.

And the Phil Mickelson we fans have come to know is the quintessential role model. His life has been dogged by near-disasters, yet he has persevered with prayer and faith. In 2003, for example, Phil’s wife, Amy. narrowly escaped death during delivery of their son, Evan. And during that experience Phil is said to have made a pact with the Almighty that he would use his wealth and position to better the lives of less fortunate people.

Later, we fans held our collective breath when not only Amy but Phil’s mother, Mary, as well successfully battled breast cancer, giving him one more cause to champion. During that trying time, thousands of us prayed for Phil as if he were one of our closest relatives.

And he has always returned our affection.

Nobody has been more generous with his time and fortune than Phil Mickelson. His random acts of kindness and philanthropic projects are legendary. And we fans love him for it.

Take David Finn, for example. The handicapped teenager from River Edge, N.J., dragged himself and his wheelchair around the rain-softened Baltusrol Golf Club course to follow Mickelson after the golfing great gave him an autographed glove. Mickelson continued to acknowledge the young man’s presence throughout the 2005 PGA Championship, and when he won, with a 72nd-hole birdie, David was there behind the green to cheer him on.

Mickelson celebrated his victory by inviting David to have his picture taken with the Wanamaker Trophy (above).

It’s the kind of gesture that has endeared Phil to golf fans around the world. And none is more devoted than David Finn. Every year David and his parents attend the Barclays and the Deutsche Bank Championship to root for Mickelson. And David has transformed his bedroom into a shrine for Phil.

Looking back at the Hall of Famer’s  life, it seems shockingly out of character that he would grumble about paying taxes.

Yes, I know he gives away a lot of his money. But I’m sure he gets to write it off on his tax return. And when you think of the millions Phil collects without showing up at a factory or office day after day, you have to wonder about the crazy world we live in.

While the rest of us have to pay to enjoy a round of golf, the pros get paid to tee it up. And in the case of stars like Phil, they’re paid incredibly well.

Surely, Phil shouldn’t grumble about paying his share of taxes, even when it seems a bit steep.

Click here for Phil’s complaint.

Click here for Mickelson’s victories.

Click here for Mickelson’s earnings.