Jim Mackay has been Phil Mickelson’s caddy since 1992.
Thanks to Freddy Couples, he’s had the nickname “Bones” even longer.
“We were in a restaurant in France and he was trying to get my attention across the room,” the tall and slender Mackay said on The John Feinstein Show. “So he just started yelling all these names – none of which were mine. And when he yelled out ‘Bones,’ I turned around.”
The nickname stuck.
A year or two later, Mackay became Mickelson’s caddy. The two have had wonderful moments together over the last two-plus decades, but Mackay was never as emotional as he was when Mickelson won the British Open this past Sunday.
“I think it was just the culmination of . . . the whole process of being with Phil for those 21 years and being there for the real highs and the lows and also the struggles that he had at the Open Championship and knowing how much it meant to him,” Mackay said. “I think having that unique opportunity to be with him his entire career, that moment just kind of got the best of me.
“It was as much fun – other than family-related stuff – as I’ve ever had in my entire life. He’s been amazingly good to me and my family, and I’m just so happy for the guy.”
Playing at Scotland’s Muirfield Golf Course – one of the most storied courses in the world – Mackay knew Mickelson would need to have an extraordinary Sunday to finish atop the leaderboard. His strong performance in warm-ups was a good sign.
“I think it’s pretty important because of the psychological effect,” Mackay said. “I don’t think it would be maybe that big of a deal at a regular tour event, but at a tournament that big, that big of a stage, on a golf course as difficult as that was, on a day when they were predicting for the wind to blow even harder – you just knew you couldn’t get out there that day and (even) remotely fake it. There are some events where you can get away with being semi-decent and still be very effective, but there was no chance that was going to be the case Sunday.”
Mickelson birdied four of the last six holes to win the major – his fifth.
There were several pivotal moments throughout the day when Mackay knew just want to say – or not say – to Mickelson.
“I’ve certainly worked for him for a long time, and we’ve fortunately, for me, been in these situations a lot where he’s had a chance to do something big on a big stage,” Mackay said. “I think the job we have – there’s so many great caddies out there and all these guys and girls do a phenomenal job – you’re carrying the bag and you’re chasing down the divots and you’re raking the bunkers. But it’s those little exchanges at the big moments that I think are what hopefully we can all do well in trying to relate to (our) player and communicate with (our) player in a way that, if anything, increases the confidence in what he’s doing. And you’re certainly not going to question anything that he’s dead set on doing in that particular moment.”
Mackay met Mickelson through Mickelson’s college coach, who recruited one of Mackay’s friends out of high school. It’s been a beautiful partnership ever since.
“All these years later, you certainly wouldn’t expect it to last any longer than the average player-caddy relationship,” Mackay said. “But I’m just really grateful he’s kept me around as long as he has.”