News & Opinion

Mickelson’s caddie plans to visit Erin Hills anyway

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Phil Mickelson likely won’t be at Erin Hills next week for his 27th U.S. Open, but his bagman, Jim Mackay, plans on making the trip to Wisconsin, just in case.

Mickelson announced at the Memorial Tournament on Saturday after his round that he plans to attend daughter Amanda’s high school graduation in California on Thursday, June 15, which conflicts with the first round of the U.S. Open (“Mickelson’s likely WD at Open exposes USGA flaw,” June 5, http://bit.ly/2qR48Vb).

Mackay wants to be prepared in case something unforeseen might occur and allow Mickelson to play.

“I’m going to go to Erin Hills to scout out the course and see how it all plays out,” Mackay texted Sunday after Mickelson tied for 22nd at the Memorial.

With Mickelson playing this week at the FedEx St. Jude Classic in Memphis, Tenn., Mackay could make it to Erin Hills no sooner thanSaturday, should Mickelson miss the cut, or Monday, if he were to play on the weekend.

Mackay has not missed a U.S. Open in 27 years. He caddied for Larry Mize (1990-91), Mickelson (1992), Mike Standly (1993) and Mickelson (1994–2016). Mickelson didn’t play in the 1993 Open after failing to advance from a sectional-qualifying playoff, so Mackay grabbed Standly’s bag for the week, resulting in a T-16 finish.

Mackay recalled the playoff, a 10-for-7 stampede, being reduced to Mickelson and Eric Hoos for the final spot before darkness suspended play, forcing the two to return early the next day.

“So, we come back, everybody warms up, they putt, they go out and no one's given the greens crew the heads-up,” said Mackay, adding that morning dew covered the greens. “Phil's got a 20?footer, and this guy's got a 40?footer, and it goes shooting across the green with a rooster tail coming up from behind, and it went right in the middle. And Phil got knocked out of the U.S. Open. So that was the last time he didn't play.”

If Mickelson doesn’t play, Mackay would be a sought-after free-agent caddie, but he is not interested.

“I think that would be disrespectful to Phil,” said Mackay, who has been on the bag for 41 of Mickelson’s 42 PGA Tour victories, including five major championships. (Steve Loy, Mickelson’s college coach at Arizona State, looped when Mickelson won the 1991 Northern Telecom Open as an amateur. Loy has been Mickelson’s agent since 1992.) Mickelson lacks only a U.S. Open title to complete the career Grand Slam.

“If it was a friend, if my caddie friend broke his leg, right? And he called Phil and said, ‘Hey, my buddy here has an issue’ or ‘Our buddy the player has an issue,’ well that's a different story, but standing here talking with you right now, I can't see that scenario.”

If Mackay does not caddie that week, he intends to catch up with his wife, Jen, and kids, who are planning a trip from their Scottsdale, Ariz., home to visit national parks in the West.

Alex Miceli is the founder and publisher of Morning Read. Email: alex@morningread.com; Twitter: @AlexMiceli