Lefty and Bones: A tandem like no other

By Rex HoggardJune 20, 2017, 8:39 pm

It was like death and taxes – inevitable. Eternal, even.

It’s somehow fitting that Phil Mickelson and his longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay decided to call it quits this week. The duo’s last start together, the FedEx St. Jude Classic two weeks ago, was where it all began.

“I do think every time I come back here, 25 years ago to the day basically on Monday, Tuesday, it was at Farmington Golf Course was the first day that Bones and I ever worked together. It was exactly 25 years ago this week,” Mickelson said on June 7. “Every time I come back here to Memphis I always think about that and that particular moment.”

Mickelson didn’t play last week’s U.S. Open, electing to attend his daughter’s graduation instead, but Bones was still there, walking the insanely long fairways of Erin Hills on the off chance his boss of two-and-a-half decades could somehow make his opening tee time.

Lefty didn’t make that tee time, but Bones’ diligence in preparing for the highly unlikely eventuality is as good a place to begin an examination of the duo’s unique relationship as any.

Make no mistake, Mackay was much more than simply an “outdoor butler,” an affectionate term for caddies in Tour circles. He was Mickelson’s friend and confidant. He was Lefty’s competitive compass when things sped up on the golf course as they often do when you find yourself in contention, and Mickelson and his wingman found themselves in the hunt often.

Forty-one of Mickelson’s 42 Tour titles came with Mackay on the bag, the exception being the 1991 Northern Telecom Open which Lefty won as an amateur with his future manager, Steve Loy, pulling looping duties.



“I’m undefeated,” Loy joked earlier this year in Mexico when Mickelson’s brother, Tim, had to stand in when Mackay came down with an illness.

Player-caddie relationships simply aren’t built to last. The stress of playing the game at the highest level combined with the inevitable ebb and flow of a career tend to create an excess of emotional baggage for both employer and employee.

The adage on Tour goes that there are two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be, but since 1992 Mackay has been neither. In Bones, Mickelson had a perfect yin to his complex competitive yang, someone who could provide a voice of reason when all Lefty could hear in his head was, “Go for it.”

Mickelson has spoken of the annual “veto” he allowed Bones, a one-time card Mackay could use, without question or concern, if he and his boss disagreed on a particular shot.

“I do want to say for the record that I did not use my ‘veto’ this year. I would like to pass it along to [Mickelson’s interim caddie, brother Tim], in all its glory,” Mackay wrote in a statement announcing the duo’s split on Tuesday.

Mickelson playfully fired back in his own statement, explaining that the veto was “non-transferable,” but joking aside, the agreement is a telling sign of the depths of trust shared by the two. It’s the type of agreement that’s not shared by many player-caddie combinations and for good reason. That kind of confidence only comes from decades of trial and, in Mickelson’s case, plenty of error.

The best example of this complex and compelling relationship came on Sunday at the 2010 Masters. Mickelson’s drive at the 13th hole had raced through the fairway and into the pine straw.

Clinging to a one-stroke lead, Mickelson being Mickelson eyed the situation – which included a pair of trees in front of him and Rae's Creek waiting 200 yards away – and informed Bones, “I’m going for it.”

Not once but twice Mackay attempted to talk Lefty into taking a more conservative shot and layup, and both times Mickelson was having none of it. History will hold that Mickelson’s 6-iron came to rest 4 feet from the hole for a two-putt birdie that helped secure his third green jacket.

But it was Bones’ unique approach on that special Sunday that resonated with his fellow caddies. The balance between trying to talk your player out of what you believe to be an overly aggressive shot and not chipping away at their confidence is a fine line, and no one did that better than MacKay.

Bones doesn’t appear to be heading into retirement, which means someone is going to hire a Hall of Fame caddie in the next few months, but there may never be a tandem like Lefty and Bones again. It was a relationship that was built on much more than just golf or glory, and it ended far too soon.

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DJ: Kapalua win means nothing for Abu Dhabi

By Associated PressJanuary 17, 2018, 2:55 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Dustin Johnson's recent victory in Hawaii doesn't mean much when it comes to this week's tournament.

The top-ranked American will play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for the second straight year. But this time he is coming off a victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which he won by eight shots.

''That was two weeks ago. So it really doesn't matter what I did there,'' said Johnson, who finished runner-up to Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi last year. ''This is a completely new week and everybody starts at even par and so I've got to start over again.''

In 2017, the long-hitting Johnson put himself in contention despite only making one eagle and no birdies on the four par-5s over the first three rounds.

''The par 5s here, they are not real easy because they are fairly long, but dependent on the wind, I can reach them if I hit good tee balls,'' the 2016 U.S. Open champion said. ''Obviously, I'd like to play them a little better this year.''

The tournament will see the return of Paul Casey as a full member of the European Tour after being away for three years.

''It's really cool to be back. What do they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Quite cheesy, but no, really, really cool,'' said the 40-year-old Englishman, who is now ranked 14th in the world. ''When I was back at the Open Championship at Birkdale, just the reception there, playing in front of a home crowd, I knew this is something I just miss.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starts Thursday and also features former No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who is making a comeback after more than three months off.

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Kuchar joins European Tour as affiliate member

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 2:52 pm

Months after he nearly captured the claret jug, Matt Kuchar has made plans to play a bit more golf in Europe in 2018.

Kuchar is in the field this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told reporters in advance of the opening round that he has opted to join the European Tour as an affiliate member:

As an affiliate member, Kuchar will not have a required minimum number of starts to make. It's the same membership status claimed last year by Kevin Na and Jon Rahm, the latter of whom then became a full member and won two European Tour events in 2017.

Kuchar made six European Tour starts last year, including his runner-up performance at The Open. He finished T-4 at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in his lone European Tour start that wasn't co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour.

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Hot Seat: Rory jumps into the fire early

By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 2:11 pm

The world’s top tours head to desert regions this week, perfect locales for The Hot Seat, the gauge upon which we measure the level of heat the game’s top personalities are facing ...

Sahara sizzle: Rory McIlroy

McIlroy won’t have to look far to see how his form measures up to world No. 1 Dustin Johnson at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

McIlroy will make his 2018 debut with Johnson in his face, literally.

McIlroy will be grouped with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood in the first two rounds.

Players like to downplay pairings early in a tournament, but it’s hard to believe McIlroy and Johnson won’t be trying to send each other messages in this European Tour event in the United Arab Emirates. That’s the alpha-dog nature of world-class players looking to protect their turf, or in the case of McIlroy, take back his turf.

“When you are at the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Trevor Immelman said about pairings during Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge last month.

And that was an offseason event.

“They want to show this guy, ‘This is what I got,’” Immelman said.

As early season matchups go, Abu Dhabi is a heavyweight pairing that ought to be fun.

So there will be no easing into the new year for McIlroy after taking off the last three months to regroup from the stubborn rib injury that plagued him last season. He is coming off a winless year, and he will be doing so alongside a guy who just won the first PGA Tour event of 2018 in an eight-shot rout. Johnson’s victory in Hawaii two weeks ago was his fifth since McIlroy last won.

“Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place, and that was because of where I was physically,” McIlroy said of 2017. “I feel prepared now. I feel ready, and I feel ready to challenge. I feel really good about where I’m at with my health. I’ve put all that behind me, which has been great.”



Sonoran Smolder: Phil Mickelson

Mickelson will turn 48 this summer.

His world ranking is sliding, down to No. 43 now, which is the lowest he has ranked in 24 years.

It’s been more than four years since he last won, making him 0 for his last 92 starts.

There’s motivation in all of that for Mickelson. He makes his 2018 debut at the CareerBuilder Challenge in the Palm Springs area this week talking like a man on a renewed mission.

There’s a Ryder Cup team to make this season, which would be his 12th straight, and there’s a career Grand Slam to claim, with the U.S. Open returning to Shinnecock Hills, where Mickelson finished second in ’04.

While Mickelson may not feel old, there are so many young stars standing in his way that it’s hard not to be constantly reminded that time isn’t on his side in these events anymore.

There has only been one player in the history of the game to win a major championship who was older than Mickelson is right now. Julius Boros won the PGA Championship when he was 48 back in 1968.



Campaign fever: Jordan Spieth

Spieth’s respect in the game’s ranks extends outside the ropes.

He was just selected to run for the PGA Tour Player Advisory Council’s chairman position. He is facing Billy Hurley III in an election to see who will succeed Davis Love III on the Tour’s Policy Board next year.

Spieth, just 24, has already made Time Magazine’s list of the “100 Most Influential People.” He made that back in 2016, with the magazine writing that “he exemplifies everything that’s great about sports.” Sounds like a campaign slogan.

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CareerBuilder Challenge: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 1:10 pm

The PGA Tour shifts from Hawaii to Southern California for the second full-field event of the year. Here are the key stats and information for the CareerBuilder Challenge. Click here for full-field tee times.

How to watch (all rounds on Golf Channel):

Thursday, Rd. 1: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Friday, Rd. 2: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Saturday, Rd. 3: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Sunday, Rd. 4: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream


Purse: $5.9 million ($1,062,000 to winner)

Courses: PGA West, Stadium Course, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,113); PGA West, Nicklaus Tournament Course, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,159); La Quinta Country Club, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,060) NOTE: All three courses will be used for the first three rounds but only the Stadium Course will be used for the final round.

Defending champion: Hudson Swafford (-20) - defeated Adam Hadwin by one stroke to earn his first PGA Tour win.


Notables in the field

Phil Mickelson

* This is his first start of 2018. It's the fourth consecutive year he has made this event the first one on his yearly calendar.

* For the second year in a row he will serve as the tournament's official ambassador.

* He has won this event twice - in 2002 and 2004.

* This will be his 97th worldwide start since his most recent win, The Open in 2013.


Jon Rahm

* Ranked No. 3 in the world, he finished runner-up in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

* In 37 worldwide starts as a pro, he has 14 top-5 finishes.

* Last year he finished T-34 in this event.


Adam Hadwin

* Last year in the third round, he shot 59 at La Quinta Country Club. It was the ninth - and still most recent - sub-60 round on Tour.

* In his only start of 2018, the Canadian finished 32nd in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.


Brian Harman

* Only player on the PGA Tour with five top-10 finishes this season.

* Ranks fifth in greens in regulation this season.

* Finished third in the Sentry Tournament of Champions and T-4 in the Sony Open in Hawaii.


Brandt Snedeker

* Making only his third worldwide start since last June at the Travelers Championship. He has been recovering from a chest injury.

* This is his first start since he withdrew from the Indonesian Masters in December because of heat exhaustion.

* Hasn't played in this event since missing the cut in 2015.


Patrick Reed

* Earned his first career victory in this event in 2014, shooting three consecutive rounds of 63.

* This is his first start of 2018.

* Last season finished seventh in strokes gained: putting, the best ranking of his career.

(Stats provided by the Golf Channel editorial research unit.)