When it was over, when Phil Mickelson had finished scorching the Muirfield course with a 66 that secured his British Open victory, there was a moment for Team Phil, the people who’ve been with him along the way.
There was his wife, Amy, who has battled breast cancer, and his three children, waiting with hugs. But before the family celebration, there was an emotional scene with just Mickelson and his caddie of over 20 years, Jim “Bones” Mackay. When Mickelson finished his round, it was just the two of them on the course and they embraced tightly, with Mickelson tearing up and Mackay, the cool caddie, sobbing.
“You work for a guy for 21 years, it’s pretty cool when you see him playing the best round of golf you’ve ever seen him play in the last round to win the British Open,” Mackay said later, still struggling for composure.
Mickelson, 43, won the Claret Jug for the first time in his career and now lacks only a U.S. Open victory for a sweep of the majors. On a course that tested and humbled the best players in golf, he roared back from a five-stroke deficit on the final day. If he’d been a Brit, he might have given the royal baby a run for its money on the front pages of British newspapers.
“This is the greatest feeling I’ve had in the game,” Mickelson, 43, said. “It’s probably the greatest round of my career. ” … I never knew if I would win this tournament. I hoped, but I never knew it … until about an hour ago.”
Hunter Mahan’s caddie, John Wood, found Mackay when Mickelson’s win was in the books after the rest of the field finished.
“There’s a certain number of guys out here like Bones who do this job not for the money or for any other reason but to help their players become the greatest they can be,” Wood said (via the New York Times).
And it was a testament to sticking together through thick and a considerable amount of thin. Why, Mackay was asked, was he such an emotional puddle and he replied, “Because the first time I caddied for the guy, he didn’t have $10.”
Just look at another famous golfing duo, Tiger Woods and his former caddie Stevie Williams. They split up two years ago and Williams, who was caddie for 13 of Woods’s 14 major titles, was on the bag for Adam Scott, Woods’s final-round partner. After finishing their round, the two shook hands and spoke — something they’ve rarely done since their public split.
“When you work 21 years for a guy it’s pretty cool to see him play the greatest round of golf he’s ever played in the last round of the British Open,” Mackay said. “He hit it great, he putted great. … The guy has done a lot of really cool things on a big stage. He wants to be on the big stage, wants to hit big shots when it matters. Today he did that.”
Phil & Bones are the best player/caddy partnership in golf IMO. It’s hard to last as long as they have 2gether yet they have done it w/ ease
— Luke Donald (@LukeDonald) July 21, 2013
Mickelson’s wife, Amy, said just before the award ceremony that “there aren’t really words to describe what he means not just to Phil but to our family.” As she excused herself, she added, “I’m going to go snuggle up with Bones now.”