Thomas Gives Caddie Bones Gift Mickelson Never Did

The PGA Championship winner presented his bagman with the winning flag, a tradition Phil Mickelson chose to ignore

Bones Mackay and Justin Thomas celebrate winning the PGA Championship at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma
(Image credit: Getty Images)

 

Justin Thomas celebrated his first Major victory with Jim ‘Bones’ Mackay on the bag by gifting the legendary caddie a traditional keepsake - something Phil Mickelson never did. After emerging victorious from the three-hole playoff with Will Zalatoris to win the PGA Championship, Thomas gifted the winning flag to Bones, a traditional show of appreciation for the winning caddie’s hard work.

As per golfwrx.com, when Bones was carrying Mickelson’s bag, he didn’t receive the flag after any of his five Major victories - Lefty instead preferring to gift the flags to his grandfather, which according to Alan Shipnuck, author of the much-anticipated new book Phil: The Rip-Roaring (and unauthorized) Biography of Golf’s Most Colorful Superstar, was taken by Bones as a sign of disrespect.

“Mackay understood and respected that gesture, but 19 more Tour victories would follow, including four Majors and he never got to keep a single flag,” Shipnuck wrote, as per golfwrx.com. “That’s a giant f*** you to a caddie,” added Shipnuck, quoting ‘someone very close to Mackay’. “When Phil wins the Masters, he gets the green jacket, the trophy, the big check, all the glory. He had to take the flags, too? For Phil not to follow the tradition was hugely disrespectful.” 

After Mackay and Mickelson split in 2017, Mickelson did send the flags to Bones, but that didn’t clear the air between the two either. “Phil autographed them in comically large letters, which Mackay felt disfigured the keepsakes,” Shipnuck says, as per golfwrx.com, adding that Bones never displayed them in his home.

Thomas hired Bones to be his bagman last September, his first change of caddie since his rookie season. Jimmy Johnson had told Thomas he wanted to pursue other opportunities, bringing an amicable end to their six-year partnership, allowing Thomas to hire one of the greatest of all time, who was working as an on-course TV reporter. Before taking the job with NBC/Golf Channel, Bones had enjoyed a hugely successful partnership with Mickelson that spanned 25 years, and it was that experience that proved vital to Thomas’s win at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma last week.

After opening with back-to-back 67s, Thomas was among the leaders, but a 74 on Saturday left him seven shots back and feeling less than satisfied. Cue Bones, who used all that experience to give his man a serious talking to.

“I'm fully confident in saying that I wouldn't be standing here if he didn't give me that - wasn't necessarily a speech - but a talk, if you will,” said Thomas after claiming his second PGA Championship. “I just needed to let some steam out. I didn't need to bring my frustration and anger home with me. I didn't need to leave the golf course in a negative frame of mind.

“I just went down. I played pretty well yesterday for shooting 4-over, and I felt like I'd played terrible. And he was just like, dude, you've got to stop being so hard on yourself. You're in contention every single week we're playing. I've had a lot of chances to win tournaments, and it's a hard golf course; it's a Major championship. You don't have to be perfect. Just don't be hard on yourself. Just kind of let stuff happen,  and everything is trending in the right direction. So just keep staying positive so that good stuff can happen. I left here in an awesome frame of mind. Bones did an unbelievable job of keeping me in the moment.”

Despite a slow start to his final round, Thomas birdied four of the final 10 holes to post another 67 and a clubhouse score of 5-under-par, a total only matched by Zalatoris. Two more birdies in the three-hole playoff were enough to give the 29-year-old his second Major victory, the first with Bones on the bag.

Jeff Kimber
Jeff Kimber

Jeff graduated from Leeds University in Business Studies and Media in 1996 and did a post grad in journalism at Sheffield College in 1997. His first jobs were on Slam Dunk (basketball) and Football Monthly magazines, and he's worked for the Sunday Times, Press Association and ESPN. He has faced golfing greats Sam Torrance and Sergio Garcia, but on the poker felt rather than the golf course. Jeff's favourite course played is Sandy Lane in Barbados, which went far better than when he played Matfen Hall in Northumberland, where he crashed the buggy on the way to the 1st tee!