Bones 'absolutely overjoyed' for second act of career

By Ryan LavnerJuly 6, 2017, 6:30 pm

As expected, Jim “Bones” Mackay received plenty of intriguing offers after spending a quarter century as the most high-profile caddie in golf.

None sounded more appealing than TV work.

Just two weeks after his sudden and surprising split with longtime boss Phil Mickelson, Mackay joined NBC Sports as an on-course reporter. The multiyear deal will put Mackay, 52, on the ground at some of the biggest events in golf, beginning in two weeks at The Open at Royal Birkdale, and continuing throughout the rest of the year at the FedExCup Playoffs and Presidents Cup. He will work a full schedule (about 20 events) in 2018.

“This is a great day for me,” Mackay said. “I’m absolutely overjoyed.”

The self-described “golf rat” has long been fascinated by the inner workings of TV. In November 2015, he and fellow caddie John Wood, who loops for Matt Kuchar, worked together as on-course reporters at the RSM Classic on Sea Island. Initially, NBC’s lead producer Tommy Roy said, using the two caddies was a “hook,” a reason for viewers to tune in during a typically slow week on the golf calendar. But Roy quickly realized that both Mackay and Wood offered unique, succinct takes on the rounds unfolding in front of them. (Roy’s only critique of Bones: No chewing gum on camera.) “They both just blew me away,” he said.

Mackay and Wood came away with the understanding that if they ever decided to leave the caddie yard, a job offer would be waiting for them.

And Mackay became available first.

Soon after Mickelson and Mackay announced that they were splitting after 25 years, Roy phoned Mackay to discuss the possibility of working together again.

“And the more we talked,” Mackay said, “the more amazing it sounded in terms of what I was going to do with my professional life moving forward.”

For Roy, the move was a no-brainer: Having eavesdropped on Phil and Bones’ illuminating conversations inside the ropes, and after lengthy dinners together on the road, Roy knew Mackay possessed two of the most important qualities of a great broadcaster: He was a strong, smart communicator and a big-picture thinker.

“The conversation was rarely about Bones and Phil and their little, myopic world,” Roy said. “It was always bigger picture, and the storylines that were happening in the event. Bones thinks like a producer. Those things usually take time to get ingrained in you, and he already has that.”

The addition of Mackay, one of the sport's most well-known figures, breaks the mold in golf broadcasting, as he is the first caddie to be used in a full-time tournament role. TV executives often are criticized for retaining the same bland analysts who are decades removed from competition. But Mackay’s hire opens the door for other fresh and interesting voices, whether they’re caddies, swing coaches, sports psychologists or – gasp! – even writers.

“It could be a game-changer,” said one golf broadcaster.

Will the Bones experiment work? The belief here is that he will prove to be a resounding success. Not only has he amassed a wealth of knowledge over the past 27 years about the PGA Tour’s players, caddies and courses, but he is already approaching the TV side with the same meticulousness that led to an extraordinary run with the most unpredictable star of his generation. After all, this is a guy who used to towel off his boss’ rain gear, who attended his brother’s morning wedding and then carried Phil’s bag in the afternoon, and who painstakingly scouted new venues on achy knees. So is it any surprise that Mackay is already poring over his yardage books from Birkdale and pitching ideas to Roy?

Yes, there is so much for him to learn. The role of on-course reporter is more complicated than merely calling shots – it involves talking with a producer yapping in your ear, keeping up with the frenetic cadence of live golf and being ready to join the telecast at any moment. But Mackay has promised to pepper his new co-workers with questions over the next few weeks – “I’m gonna drive these guys nuts” – as he prepares for his official debut on July 20.

“I’m embracing this entire thing,” he said, “and I can’t wait to get at it and hopefully get better in every single area.”

Who knows? Maybe Bones’ second career will be just as memorable as his first.

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

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The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.