Wednesday, May 22, 2013
While waiting for the Super Bowl to start on Sunday -- and because I resolutely don't read or watch anything about the game for the full two weeks after the conference championships -- I instead enjoyed how Phil Mickelson finished the final round of his wire-to-wire domination of the Phoenix Waste Management Open.
Mickelson, one of the most popular and accomplished golfers on the pro tour, won his 41st tournament and ranks second among active players for career victories.
He pulled down $1.1 million for his achievement, pretty good money for a sport that once was labeled "a good walk spoiled."
That comment is often attributed to Mark Twain, but no matter who first said it, true golfers enjoy the game so much it seems almost unnecessary to pay any of them to play it. Still, it also can be an intensely frustrating exercise.
I worked my way through college as a caddy and groundskeeper on a private course, and once saw a golfer throw a club at a bird chirping in a tree because it wouldn't keep quiet while he was addressing the ball.
Though I've never put the time into the sport to get good at it -- golf requires nearly constant practice to play it well -- I've spent enough time on courses to understand why so many people love it.
Mickelson, a left-hander who almost never even seems to frown at anything but his own disappointment at an occasional bad shot, wouldn't even toss a golf ball at a blue jay, I'm certain.
He still got in trouble last month for a bad shot of a different sort, however, venturing an opinion that drew criticism from the sort of people for whom expressing envy of those who have done well financially by excelling in their fields is their own version of competitive activity.
Like many pro athletes at his level of performance, Mickelson, a California resident, makes more from endorsements than from his performance on the links. According to Richard A. Epstein, a law professor at New York University and a fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution, Mickelson makes about $45 million per year from all sources.
And the golfer grabbed some deep-rough headlines in mid-January for, in Epstein's words, having "politely protested California's new maximum tax rate of 13.3 percent."
What Mickelson said was, in response to his home state's soak-the-rich rate increase, that "he might have to take 'drastic measures' that could include leaving the state because of the increased financial burden he has incurred due to recent changes in California's tax laws," ESPN reported on Jan. 23.
After considerable criticism for his "insensitivity," the golfer said he was sorry for saying something sensible and logical in public: "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 think 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."
Hmmm. Somebody better tell Hollywood celebrities, rock stars and more than a few politicians that their fancy estates, luxury automobiles and even yachts (that sometimes are docked out of state to avoid taxes -- hi, there, Mr. New Secretary of State) are inherently offensive to us working stiffs.
Well, not all of us. But to some world-class professional complainers, I guess they can be.
Even though he felt he had to cover his flank to keep his endorsement jobs flowing (anybody seen Tiger Woods in any car commercials lately?), Mickelson happily stopped short of saying he would stay in California.
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