Bones moved to tears as he takes special pride in Mickelson’s success

Caddie Jim Mackay has soldiered by his boss’s side for 21 years

 Phil Mickelson  holds the Claret Jug with caddie Jim Mackay after the final round of the 142nd British Open Championship at Muirfield. Photo:  Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Phil Mickelson holds the Claret Jug with caddie Jim Mackay after the final round of the 142nd British Open Championship at Muirfield. Photo: Andrew Redington/Getty Images


Phil Mickelson drained the last of his six birdie putts on Sunday to end his long and winding road to the British Open championship. He picked the ball out of the cup and raised his arms high while his longtime caddie, Jim Mackay, calmly replaced the flagstick on the 18th hole at Muirfield. And then one of the driest British Opens in recent memory got all wet.

Mackay and Mickelson embraced, with one sobbing into the other’s shoulder. Only it wasn’t Mickelson crying but Mackay, who later explained while choking back more tears,

“You work for a guy for 21 years, it’s pretty cool when you see him playing the best round of golf you’ve ever seen him play in the last round to win the British Open.”

Before they teed off, Mackay gave Mickelson a target to shoot for. “I said even par or 1 under could win this thing,” said Mackay, who was referring to the cumulative score. According to Mackay, Mickelson replied, “I’m going to be better than that.”

It was the only time all week they weren’t on the same page, although both were right. The second-place finisher, Henrik Stenson, finished with an even-par 284, one stroke ahead of Ian Poulter (67), Adam Scott (72) and Westwood (75).

It took an hour for Mickelson’s maiden British Open victory to become official, and during that time he was huddled with his wife and three children outside the scoring trailer. Mackay stood outside the clubhouse fielding questions from reporters and congratulations from caddies and players.

Sought out
Zach Johnson shook Mackay’s hand and said, “Man, I didn’t know that was out there.”

Johnson posted a 72 to finish tied for sixth at 2 over.

John Wood, the caddie for Hunter Mahan, who shot a 75, also sought out Mackay. “There’s a certain number of guys out here like Bones who do this job not for the money or for any other reason but to help their players become the greatest they can be,” Wood said, referring to Mackay by his nickname.

Mickelson appreciates the asset he has in Mackay, and not just because he helps him pull the right clubs in the kind of tough winds they weathered on Sunday. Brandt Snedeker, who finished second to Mickelson at this year’s Phoenix Open, recently recalled a conversation he had with Mickelson about Mackay.

“Phil said a great thing,” Snedeker said. “He said, ‘Listen, Bones is the only guy on the golf course that wants me to play well, so why am I going to sit there and berate him and treat him poorly? He’s the only guy trying to work his tail off for me.’”

Beside every great player there is a great caddie. Jack Nicklaus had Angelo Argea. For 13 of his Major victories, Tiger Woods had Steve Williams. And since summer 1992, Mickelson has had Mackay, who is the only full-time caddie he has employed since turning pro.

After Mickelson’s victory, Luke Donald posted on Twitter: “Phil and Bones are the best player/caddy partnership in golf. It’s hard to last as long as they have together yet they have done it with ease.”

In the world of sports, where the only constant is change, Mickelson and Mackay stand out.

“There aren’t really words to describe what he means not just to Phil but to our family,” Mickelson’s wife, Amy, said as she made her way to the 18th green for the award presentation.

Mackay was in tears before Mickelson reached the part in his victory speech where he expressed appreciation for “my main man, Bones”.

Asked why he was such an emotional mess, Mackay said, “Because the first time I caddied for the guy he didn’t have $10”.

The world may look at Mickelson, 43, and see his beautiful wife, healthy children, hallowed stature and immense wealth and see a man in full, a titan of the game whose greatest cross to bear is his tax bill.

That is not the man Mackay knows at all. He looks at Mickelson and sees essentially the same person he met 21 years ago: a fierce competitor intent on squeezing every last win out of his talent and every last ray of sunshine out of his life.

“He’s stronger than he’s ever been,” Mackay said. “He’s fitter than he’s ever been. He’s hungrier than he’s ever been.” Mickelson said, “I agree with that.”

And he has Mackay on his bag. There is no improving on that. - New York Times