Phil Mickelson at PGA Championship

Phil Mickelson blasts from a bunker on the 15th hole during the first round of the 90th PGA Championship golf tournament Thursday, Aug. 7, 2008 at Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield Township, Mich. (AP Photo / Michael Conroy)

Professional golfer Phil Mickelson's comments about possibly moving out of California because the state has such a high tax rate on the wealthy set off a firestorm of controversy. Wednesday he said he made a big mistake. Mickelson calls it one of his worst moments in golf.

Phil Mickelson was all smiles Wednesday morning while playing in a PGA Tour pro-am contest at Torrey Pines Golf Course. But shortly after saving par on his 17th hole, he was all about saving face.

"You know, I've made some dumb, dumb mistakes, and obviously talking about this stuff was one of them," said Mickelson.

Mickelson used a "media mulligan" in a pre-tournament press conference.

Recently, the golfing great who according to Forbes earned about $48 million last year, complained about how much he now pays in taxes.

Mickelson claims the new federal tax rate, plus his home state of California voting in November to increase taxes on annual earnings over $250,000, means 60 percent of his income will go to taxes.

"This reminds me a lot of Winged Foot [Golf Club in N.Y.] in 2006, where I hit a drive way left off the tents. OK, this happened to be way right, but I hit way off the tents," said Mickelson. "I've never had a problem paying my fair share. I don't know what that is right now, but I have no problem paying my fair share."

Mickelson was born and raised here San Diego and now lives nearby in Rancho Santa Fe. But he's a rarity on the tour: Most players live in Florida or Texas, where there are no state taxes.

"I moved out of here back in what, '96? For that reason," said pro golfer Tiger Woods.

Mickelson says he has to consider leaving his home state as well.

"I love this state. I mean, I grew up here, I love it here. And I'm certainly concerned for it," said Mickelson.

"Sixty percent of your income? I don't think so," said state Assemblywoman Connie Conway (R-Tulare). "The man has a family. He has a business to run. He is a business. Sixty percent of income is gone beyond fair share."

"There's no evidence that I've ever seen that higher tax rates caused any kind of significant exodus of wealthier people from California," said state Assemblyman Roger Dickinson (D-Sacramento). "The fact is people love being in California."

One fellow PGA player called Mickelson unsympathetic to the many Americans who are struggling. But some golf fans weren't as critical.

Beginning Thursday, Mickelson will battle 155 players for a chunk of a $6-million purse. But first, "Lefty" wanted to make things right.

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