Mickelson and Mackay split ways after 25 years
June 20, 2017
By Staff, PGATOUR.COM
- June 20, 2017
Phil Mickelson has pin tended on approach by caddie Jim Mackay
In the final round of the 2011 Farmers Insurance Open, Phil Mickelson thrills the crowd at Torrey Pines by having Jim ''Bones'' Mackay tend the flag on his approach shot into the par-5 finishing hole.
Rare is the dedication that marked the long-running partnership between Phil Mickelson and Jim “Bones” Mackay, who jointly announced Tuesday that they will part ways.
Years ago, Mackay was with fellow caddie John Wood during an earthquake, but instead of ducking under a table or taking shelter under a door frame, Mackay ran to Mickelson’s golf bag to keep it from tipping over. Mickelson, in turn, made room for Mackay on his Gulfstream jet, and wouldn’t let Mackay take his bag when they played golf together.
But that’s all over now. Mickelson will have a new caddie on the bag the next time he tees it up on the PGA TOUR, at The Greenbrier Classic, July 6-9.
“After 25 very rewarding and memorable years, Bones and I have mutually decided to end our player-caddie relationship,” Mickelson said in a statement. “Our decision is not based on a single incident. We just feel it’s the right time for a change.”
Mackay was on Mickelson’s bag for all 41 of the lefthander’s professional victories, and his unwavering dedication is such that it made news when a stomach ailment knocked him out of action for most of one round at the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship earlier this season. Tim Mickelson, Phil’s younger brother, took the bag that day.
Tim Mickelson will caddie for Phil for the rest of this season, Mickelson’s statement said.
Caddie Mackay also released a statement.
“After an amazing 25-year run, Phil and I have mutually decided to go our separate ways,” said Mackay, who had been somewhat hobbled this year as he recovers from a double knee replacement. “Player-caddie relationships don’t often last that long. I will always be grateful that I was around to witness so much of Phil’s career.
“When Phil hired me in 1992, I had one dream: to caddie in a Ryder Cup. Last year, at Hazeltine, Phil played in his 11th straight Ryder Cup. It was so cool to have a front-row seat. I wish Phil nothing but the best. His game is still at an elite level, and when he wins in the future (definitely the Masters), I will be among the first to congratulate him.”
Mickelson, 47, was in the news last week for skipping the U.S. Open, the only major he hasn’t won, in order to attend his oldest daughter’s high school graduation. He is already in the World Golf Hall of Fame, and has proven he is still competitively relevant, especially as he finished second to Henrik Stenson in a thrilling Open Championship duel last summer.
This has been a frustrating time, though, as Mickelson searches for his first win since the 2013 Open Championship. He is 38th in the FedExCup standings and has four top-10s this season, most recently a ninth at the FedEx St. Jude Classic. It was in Memphis that he triple-bogeyed to tumble out of the lead and said he was mentally soft, a rare bit of self-criticism.
In Hartford, Connecticut, the split shocked players and caddies alike as they prepared Tuesday for the upcoming Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands.
Mickelson's tee shot on No. 17 in Round 3 of THE PLAYERS
“I just saw it come across the wire,” Jim Herman said. “Interesting. Don’t know all the facts on it. They had a great run. I don’t know if Bones is finished or if he’s going to move on to someone younger. It’s kind of sad to see, actually. I don’t know what to think about it.
“Good for them if it’s mutual. They should both be proud of their accomplishments.”
Chad Campbell also was still digesting the news.
“They’ve had a great run, even lately,” Campbell said. “I don’t know if it’s Phil wanting to wind down and Bones wanting to work, but Phil has played great lately. I don’t even know how they got started; I figured they’d always been friends.”
Mackay, who played golf for Division II Columbus College in Georgia, caddied for Larry Mize, Curtis Strange and Scott Simpson before catching on with Mickelson. The two met at THE PLAYERS Championship in 1992, when Mickelson, Simpson and Gary McCord played a practice round. Mickelson’s father Phil Sr. caddied for him, while Mackay caddied for Simpson. As he signed autographs afterward, Mickelson asked Mackay if he was interested in the job.
They first worked together at the U.S. Open sectional qualifier in Memphis in 1992, and clicked immediately. It was Fred Couples who gave the knobby-kneed, 6-foot-4-inch Mackay his nickname, forgetting Mackay’s real name and calling him Bones instead.
Caddies at the Travelers expressed surprise but did not want to be quoted with the news still so fresh. One caddie said he’d come to think of Mackay as a member of Mickelson’s family.
Mickelson said almost the same thing.
“My relationship and history with Bones far exceeds golf,” he said in his statement. “… Amy and I, and our children, will always think of Bones, Jen, Oliver, and Emma as family.
“We are looking forward to sharing life and friendship with them forever.”
Mickelson was still an amateur at Arizona State when he won his first TOUR event, at the 1991 Northern Telecom Open in Tucson. That was before he’d met Mackay. They would pair up for memorable triumphs—THE PLAYERS Championship, three Masters, a PGA Championship, an Open Championship—plus 11 Presidents and 11 Ryder Cups.
They would also collaborate on too many autographs to count, Mackay shuttling hats and programs between Mickelson and fans. Mickelson helped organize Mackay’s birthday parties at Ruth’s Chris during THE PLAYERS, ordering expensive wines and leaving outrageous tips.
In their statements Tuesday, they made light of their “veto” agreement, in which the more conservative Mackay famously got one opportunity each year to overrule his more daring boss.
“I do want to say for the record that I did not use my veto this year,” Mackay said. “I would like to pass it along to Tim [Mickelson], in all its glory.”
Countered Mickelson: “Bones has not used his veto this year and I heard a rumor that he is trying to pass his veto to Tim. For the record, vetoes are non-transferable.”