Jim ‘Bones’ Mackay, Phil Mickelson’s long-time caddie-turned on-course analyst-turned fill-in looper, admits he had it wrong.
“I have been telling people for several years now that Phil would win a major in his 50s, but I figured it would be the Masters,” Mackay said, when interviewed on Golf Channel’s Live From on Sunday night. “He just never ceases to surprise you, or me, or anybody. He’s got this incredible will to win. … I was so impressed. I think you’ll be dealing with him at majors for several years to come.”
Few people have better insight into Mickelson’s golf game than Bones, who was on his bag for 25 years before they split in 2017. They were together for Mickelson’s first five major titles and 41 of his first 42 PGA Tour wins (Mickelson has added three wins since).
“This is a guy, when I went to work for him in 1992, he said to me, ‘Hey, listen man, I’m going to win a lot.’ He just has something in his DNA,” Mackay said. “He knows how to get it done. He’s incredibly comfortable on those big stages.”
Mackay credited Phil’s caddie/brother, Tim Mickelson, for keeping Phil in the right mindset — specifically when he hit his approach on 13 into the water. He was also impressed with Phil’s ability to keep the ball in play and work it in the wind. Mackay said Mickelson had to learn to be a good wind player, since it wasn’t an obstacle he often dealt with growing up in Southern California. Getting comfortable in Open Championships (and winning one) has helped.
But, above all else, Mickelson’s insatiable desire to compete is what stood out, Mackay said.
“This is a guy that built a driving range in his backyard when he was over 40 years old,” Mackay said. “He’s a guy that’s going to be stepping on the range at Augusta National when he’s 60 and thinking he has a great chance to win. He’s built a little differently than a lot of guys. He’s extremely competitive. He’s not ready to concede anything to anybody. That’s why he goes out and he plays these money games against people that are 20 years younger than him, 30 years younger than him. He just wants a piece of everybody. He loves to compete. I tell people all the time that if you were in those team rooms in those Ryder Cups and you saw Phil and Tiger play ping pong, it was one of the more amazing things you could ever see. So an incredible will to win, and it’s not going to leave him anytime soon.”
Next up, Mickelson will play this week’s Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial, then he said he would take two weeks off and prepare for the U.S. Open. It remains the only major he hasn’t won, and what he needs to complete the career grand slam. Two weeks ago Mickelson received a special exemption to play in it, but he won’t even need it anymore. His PGA win got him a spot.
This year’s Open is also at Torrey Pines, a course Mickelson grew up on and lives near.
“Well, it’s a short drive. Sleeping in your own bed. Hanging out with your family. You can’t put anything past the guy,” Mackay said. “He hasn’t had the best record there since they did the redo, but he’s played there so many times and my goodness gracious, nobody is going to go into that tournament with more momentum than him. … He’s going to be as charged up as you could possibly be. He’s going to have everybody in his hometown behind him, and he’s going to be feeling bulletproof coming off this PGA Championship win. So lookout, I’d say.”