Golf shocker: Phil Mickelson splits with longtime caddie Jim ‘Bones’ Mackay
Golf was already spinning on its axis in the aftermath of Tiger Woods’ arrest and a US Open set up to yield birdies, but it went into a real whirl at the news that Phil Mickelson was splitting with long-time caddie Jim “Bones” Mackay.
The five-time major winner, 47, and his faithful bagman had been together for an unprecedented 25 years and were considered a bedrock of the game but they announced their mutual separation in joint statements Tuesday.
Mackay, 52, worked for Mickelson for 41 of his 42 PGA Tour wins, all five major championship victories, 11 Ryder Cups and 11 Presidents Cups. They also finished runners-up in the US Open a record six times, as well as five other seconds and seven thirds in majors.
“Our decision is not based on a single incident. We just feel it’s the right time for change. Bones is one of the most knowledgeable and dedicated caddies in the world,” said Mickelson, who will have his younger brother Tim on the bag for the rest of the year.
The Mackay and Mickelson families are very close — Bones was introduced to his wife Jen by her best friend Amy Mickelson.
“My relationship and history with Bones far exceeds golf,” added Mickelson.
“He has been one of the most important and special people in my life since the day we met, and I will always be grateful for everything he has done for me.
“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.”
Mackay, who had double knee surgery at the end of last year, said: “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,” added Mackay, referring to the Augusta tournament that Mickelson has won three times.
The pair were famous for their on-course conversations as they studied a particular shot, with each offering impassioned opinions on the best course of action.
The swashbuckling Mickelson, as the boss, usually won the discussion.
But Bones was allowed one veto each year, which he added in his statement he was passing on to Tim. Phil Mickelson said vetoes were “non-transferable.”
Mickelson won three Masters between 2004-2010, the 2005 US PGA and the British Open in 2013, but has since had three seconds in majors to suggest he is still competitive at the top of the game despite his advancing years.
The left-hander missed last week’s US Open to attend his daughter’s graduation ceremony but Mackay still went to Erin Hills to scout the course in case a weather delay on the first day meant Mickelson could make his tee time.
Speaking to Golf Channel, Jordan Spieth said he was “shocked,” while Rory McIlroy conceded that “every player-caddie relationship runs its course.”
“I’m sure Phil and Bones are still best of friends off the course but there comes a time when you need something fresh,” McIlroy added.
Tim Mickelson is seven years younger than Phil and is a former golf coach at Arizona State before becoming an agent for promising Spaniard Jon Rahm.
In the modern game, caddies are far more than just bag carriers, and a world removed from the old image of an employee who should just “turn up, keep up and shut up.”
At the elite level they are highly professional and must fulfill a multitude of roles including psychologist, motivator, yardage calculator, green reader and companion.