A good caddie is worth their weight in gold. Just ask Justin Thomas who had no problem admitting he wouldn’t have captured the Wanamaker Trophy on Sunday if it wasn’t for his right-hand-man, Jim “Bones” Mackay.
In September last year, Thomas turned to the then on-course commentator hoping to lure Phil Mickelson’s former looper back onto the fairways. Mackay was an ever-present for five of Mickelson’s Major wins and Thomas, who won the PGA Championship in 2017, believed he was the man to help him end his major drought.
It’s taken just two Major championships for JT’s game-plan to pay off and the 29-year old American insists it was an inspirational pep-talk from Mackay on the eve of Sunday’s final round that made all the difference.
“I’m fully confident in saying that I wouldn’t be standing here if he didn’t give me that – it wasn’t necessarily a speech, but a talk, if you will,” said Thomas who overcame Will Zalatoris by a shot in the three-hole aggregate playoff.
“I just needed to let some steam out,” Thomas explained after it looked as though he’d shot himself out of the tournament on moving day; a 74 leaving him 7 shots adrift of the final day lead.
“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 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 be 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. I think I was the last player here, it was so peaceful. It was almost kind of eerie how beautiful it was outside, and there’s not very many times after shooting 4-over on Saturday of a major I left in as good a frame of mind as I have.”
Mackay’s interjection was both timely and prophetic, spoken from a place of knowledge and experience having seen it all alongside Mickelson for the best part of 25 years. His moving day 74 aside, Thomas shot three 67s, battled through the worst side of the draw and outlasted the young pretenders of Zalatoris, Cameron Young and long-time leader Mito Pereira to become a worthy second-time champion.
Thomas admits there’s been doubts along the way given his gap between Major titles but with Mackay now in tow, the pair are forging a partnership brimming with belief, and bound for more success on golf’s biggest stages.
Bones poses with the caddie trophy. Says he’s got a place in mind where he will hang it. pic.twitter.com/jVxNwk6RbB
— Adam Schupak (@AdamSchupak) May 23, 2022
“I think it’s easy to start letting some doubt creep in and just kind of like, all right, what’s going to happen, when is it going to happen, is it going to happen,” Thomas said.
“I mean, the first one with Bones officially on my bag; first one as an engaged man. There’s a lot of things that factored into it, but I don’t remember the specifics from 2017 as much as I would have liked, other than I just remember them chanting “J.T.,” but I didn’t remember the specifics.
“I just was walking up 18 in the playoff, and I knew it wasn’t over, but I looked up and I wanted to take it in because you don’t know when and if it’s going to happen again, and it’s such an unbelievable, cool feeling that you just want to enjoy it.”