‘Dude, I want you to’: How Justin Thomas courted Bones Mackay to become his new caddie
When it came time to broach the conversation of ‘putting a label’ on his newest relationship, Justin Thomas was confident he’d get an emphatic ‘yes.’ But asking the question was still nerve-wracking. In player-caddie relationships, after all, nobody wants to get rejected.
“To be honest, no, I didn’t [think the conversation would be tough],” Thomas told reporters Wednesday. “I know he had a great time when he caddied for me a couple years ago, and I shouldn’t say I didn’t think it would be real easy, but I didn’t feel like I was going to have to get on my hands and knees and beg.”
Of course, the recently-engaged Thomas is no stranger to asking big questions. But in this case he was referencing his role as one-half of golf’s hottest new high-profile player-caddie marriage. His partner, Bones Mackay, is one of the most decorated caddies ever, and he required a Thomas-sized offer to be coaxed out of retirement and his role as an on-course reporter with NBC.
“It would just be more of like a, ‘Hey, dude, I want you to,’ and I know he wants to, but at the end of the day every decision needs to be a little selfish,” Thomas said of his proposal. “If it made sense for him, then it would make sense for us and I’m glad that it did.”
Thomas and Mackay were a powerful duo from Mackay’s first loop — evidenced by their win in fill-in duty at the WGC FedEx-St. Jude Invitational back in 2020 — and in the early stages of 2022, their (now-official) relationship is reaching full bloom.
“It’s been great. It’s like a new relationship, you’re always wanting to do something to get it better,” Thomas said. “We’re talking quite often. Not as much anymore versus the first handful of events. What did I do this week that I could do better next week? What did I do that you didn’t like. Now we’re just getting comfortable enough where we’re just kind of go.”
But hey, this honeymoon phase hasn’t been without its frustrations. Thomas and Mackay recorded a top-10 finish in their first start of the year at the Tournament of Champions, but the wins haven’t come … yet. Both halves of this partnership are still learning the intracices of the other, and learning takes time.
Thomas himself is looking to shed a slump that carried him through the majority of 2022, including a winless streak dating back to last year’s Players Championship. With Bones on the bag, it would seem the question of the 6th-ranked player in the world’s next win is when rather than if.
“He knows my tendencies, I know his,” Thomas said. “He was with his old boss [Phil Mickelson] for a really long time and I was with Jimmy for a really long time and you get used to how the pro and the caddie act, just their mannerisms and stuff. We still have a long ways to go, but we’re getting more and more comfortable.”
Mackay’s mind was made up; if he was to return to the life of a PGA Tour looper, it was always going to be for JT. He told confidantes that Thomas was the only player he’d exit retirement for. As for whether Thomas knew of Mackay’s specific interest in a full-time role on his bag, the 28-year-old laughed.
“I did. I didn’t want to say that, though,” he said. “So, yes, I did know that it was going to be easy, because he told me that.”
Ah, young love.