• Team at work

    Phil Mickelson
    Bones and Phil have split

    When I read that ‘Bones’ was leaving Phil after quarter of a century I was distraught, writes ANDY CAPOSTAGNO in Compleat Golfer

    One of the pleasures of watching Mickelson over the years has been eavesdropping on his conversations with Jim Mackay. They were like an old married couple, arguing over pin placements, wind direction, yardages, rulings from officials …

    The one constant was that at the end of the conversation, Phil would take the club offered and commit to the agreed shot. In the event of non-completion of the agreement there were no recriminations, just the steady plod after the ball and the renewal of discourse upon arrival.

    But all good things must come to an end. Bones blames his knees and, speaking as one whose knees gave up 20 years ago, I can understand where he’s coming from. The thing I can’t understand is how one caddie can spend 25 years with one player, but that’s largely because I am an 18-handicapper who has never used the same caddie twice.

    Indeed, before I came to this country in November 1992, I had never used a caddie at all. It is, therefore, not surprising that I can remember almost everything about the first person unlucky enough to carry my bag.

    It was 20 January 1993, a Wednesday. Google tells me, because I had forgotten, that on the same day Bill Clinton was inaugurated as the 42nd US president, and that Audrey Hepburn, of
    My Fair Lady and Breakfast at Tiffany’s fame, died at the age of 63.

    My caddie’s name was ‘Tubby’. He was a vertically challenged, barefoot and stout Indian gentleman, who came rushing up to me in the car park of Mt Edgecombe and announced that he would be honoured to carry my bag. When I opened the boot of my borrowed car and got out my borrowed clubs and borrowed trolley he should have read the signs and fled, but he did not, for Tubby was an optimist.

    I should explain that in those far-off days the Sunshine Tour, in common with most professional sport in South Africa, was emerging from the opprobrium of international isolation. It was so overjoyed at the idea that it might be written and spoken about beyond these shores that I, a newly-arrived member of the fourth estate, was invited to play at the pro-am before the Mt Edgecombe Trophy.

    So we headed for the 1st tee, me with unutterable dread in my heart, Tubby giggling and introducing himself to the rest of my fourball. I should further explain that at this point in my life I had never played on a championship golf course and that my real handicap should have been about 32.

    Somehow I steered my first drive down the left-hand side of the fairway. This convinced Tubby that I knew what I was doing and he selected a 4-iron from my plastic pencil bag with which to play my second shot. The hole did not end well. Nor did the next, nor the one after that or the one after that. Slowly, Tubby’s enthusiasm began to wane.

    On the 5th hole I managed to get a 7-iron in the air and reasonably straight. Tubby took that as a sign from above and from that point on, whenever I asked for a club he would give me the 7-iron: ‘You hit that one nicely,’ he would say. I wonder whether that’s what Bones used to say to Phil?

    – This article first appeared in the August issue of Compleat Golfer, now on sale

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