TULSA, Oklahoma — Justin Thomas was furious.
He was certain his chances of winning the PGA Championship had been wiped out, and he was even more certain that the 4-over-74 he carded in the third round on Saturday was the reason would.
The last thing he wanted was to take that anger into the house he rented and be unhappy with his fiancé and family.
So Thomas marched to the Southern Hills practice range to breathe and hit balls. Thomas’s father and trainer, Mike, was there at the shooting range. So did his caddy Jim “Bones” Mackay.
They both listened as Thomas vented, sometimes briskly and using his arms and hands to emphasize his points.
Finally, Mackay, one of the most respected and decorated caddies to ever walk the fairways, stepped in and offered his opinion.
The best caddies on the PGA Tour are part bag handlers and part psychologists. Mackay, who worked for Phil Mickelson for 25 years, is particularly good at the latter. And he may never have been better in that department than he was at that moment out on the track with Thomas.
“I’m confident to say I wouldn’t be standing here if he hadn’t given me that … it wasn’t necessarily a speech but a conversation, if you will,” Thomas said Sunday as he stood by and braced on the Wanamaker Trophy for winning the PGA, the second of his career. “I just had to let off steam. I didn’t have to take my frustration and anger home with me. I didn’t have to leave the golf course in a negative mood.”
Thomas, who went into the final round seven shots clear, explained that he needed to be convinced he hadn’t really played as badly as he thought he had played in that third round, which was complicated by difficult weather conditions such as falling temperatures and wind.
According to Thomas, here’s what Mackay had to say to him: “Dude, you need to stop being so hard on yourself. They’re in competition every single week that we play. It’s a big championship. You don’t have to be perfect. Just don’t be hard on yourself. Just let things happen and everything will go in the right direction. So just stay positive so good things can happen.”
Mackay’s words snapped Thomas out of his nervousness.
“I left here [Saturday night] in a great mood,” said Thomas.
Thanks to Mackay for having his name engraved next to Thomas on this Wanamaker Trophy.
One of the newer buzzwords in golf, which is an individual sport, is “team”. Players often refer to their “team” – caddy, coach, physical trainer, cook, whatever – and refer to how “we” played after rounds. Sometimes we get cynical about these hints because, after all, it’s the player who calls the shots.
But this Thomas Mackay team is a legitimate example that perhaps cynicism should be brushed aside.
Mike Thomas said he thanked Mackay Sunday morning for what he said because he knew those words from a father would not have had the same effect on his son.
“If it had come from me, it might have sounded like I was stroking his ego,” Mike Thomas said. “Bones was basically saying, ‘Stop beating yourself up and see what you can do.’ I thanked him for that. That was really good news.”
Mackay, 57, had made a successful transition from caddy to television as an NBC course reporter after splitting from Mickelson. But when Thomas asked him to work for him last fall, Mackay couldn’t refuse because he missed the caddy and because, he said, Thomas was the only player he came back for.
“Because I really like him and I think he has more shots than anyone else on the tour,” Mackay said.
“Bones has been really good for Justin, a very positive influence for sure,” said Mike Thomas.
The PGA win was Thomas and Mackay’s second as a team and their first major. For Mackay, it was his sixth major championship of his career after winning five with Mickelson.
In an intriguing symmetry, Mickelson won his sixth career major at last year’s PGA Championship and was not in the field for that one as he retired from the game amid controversy over comments he made about the PGA Tour and a rival Saudi league.
“I’ve been spoiled so much out here,” Mackay said. “I love Caddy. It’s the greatest job in the world. It’s been really good for me. I was incredibly lucky. I am grateful for that.”
No one is more grateful to have Mackay in their pocket than Thomas, who would not have the coveted second major championship without him.
https://nypost.com/2022/05/23/justin-thomas-settled-down-by-caddies-talk-before-pga-win/ Justin Thomas settled on Caddies Talk ahead of the PGA win