SOUTHPORT, England — It’s a weird look seeing Phil Mickelson without caddie Jim “Bones’’ Mackay on his bag after 25 years together. Mickelson and Mackay parted ways last month, with Mackay going into TV as an on-course announcer.
Mickelson’s younger brother, Tim, a former golf coach at Arizona State, is now caddying for him.
“It’s been fun having Tim with me,’’ Mickelson said. “We’ve had a really good time. There’s no replacing Bones. I know how great he is. He’s going to do great on television.
“But it’s been really great spending time with Tim. I’ve missed him these last five or six years when he’s been in Arizona and I didn’t have a chance to see him as much.’’
Mickelson said, depending on the weather conditions, he plans to carry no driver and two 3-woods in his bag, one 3-wood being a little “hotter’’ than the other for longer distance. Interestingly though, the wind conditions Wednesday, he said, would dictate using driver six or seven times in the round. But the winds were forecast to shift beginning Thursday.
“Right now in this wind, I’d hit lot of drivers, but with the other wind from the west, there’s no possible drivers until the 15th hole and even then, because it’s a slice wind for me with bunkers on the left, I’m going to hit 3-wood anyway.
“If I played [Wednesday] in this wind, there’s probably six or seven drivers, but that’s not the forecast, which is for westerly winds sometimes out of the south, sometimes out of the north. With that wind, there’s no drivers. Johnny Miller was saying his caddie helped him win the Open here in ’76 by telling him to hit 1-irons. That’s going to be my plan.’’
Spanish sports are on a roll right now — particularly golf.
Sergio Garcia is still riding the wave of his Masters victory in April. Jon Rahm won the Irish Open two weeks ago and Rafael Cabrera-Bello won the Scottish Open last week.
“Spanish sports are at a good stage,’’ Garcia said. “You have not only [the golf], but Garbine Muguruza winning Wimbledon, too, and Rafa [Nadal] winning [the French Open tennis] at Roland Garros.
“So it’s been a fun year for Spanish sports, but for Spanish golf it’s been great. I want to say it’s probably the winningest year we’ve had on Spanish golf, between the PGA Tour and the European Tour. It’s very exciting to see that, to see guys that you’re friendly with winning and fellow countrymen doing great things. So we’re going to try to keep it as much as possible.’’
Said Rahm: “We are extremely excited. Really special moments, especially Sergio having won the Masters, all three of us in the top four in the Race to Dubai, high in the world rankings. Hopefully the other guys can feed off of that and we can keep playing good golf.’’
Garcia has had 10 top-10 finishes at the Open, including two seconds. He’s finished no worse than sixth in his last three Opens.
Darren Clarke, the 2011 Claret Jug winner and the 2016 losing Ryder Cup captain who’s playing in his 26th British Open this week, said he has a “love-hate relationship’’ with the game.
Six years after winning at Royal St. Georges at age 42, Clarke said he’s still awed that he did it — particularly as he has watched his game decline. He hasn’t made a single cut on the European Tour this year and his world ranking has plummeted to outside the top 1,000.
“I look back on it now with a massive amount of pride, but also ‘How did I do that, with the way I’ve played since?’ ” he said in an interview with the Guardian. “I scaled the mountain. It was everything that I wanted to achieve from when I picked up a club. Then I tried to change things to make myself even better when I didn’t need to. Such was my desire to get better but it backfired.
“Right now, the game is difficult,’’ he continued. “When I started playing 37 years ago, I didn’t think it would become as difficult as it has become. When you come off the course and you’ve missed another cut on a Friday, it’s a special type of madness to keep on going. But you have to. What’s the option? Pack it in? I don’t want to pack it in because I’d miss it. If I didn’t have the thrill of competition, I’d be very flat.’’
Being known as the captain of losing Ryder Captain after the Europeans had dominated the Americans for the better part of the last two decades, Clarke is still chafed by the loss at Hazeltine last year.
Asked how often he thinks about it, Clarke said, “Every other day. I think back with disappointment that we lost. I think in terms of, ‘What could I have done differently?’ ’’
This year marks the 10th Open to be staged at Royal Birkdale, stretching back to 1954. At the last Open staged here, 53-year-old Greg Norman, playing on his honeymoon after marrying former tennis great Chris Evert, had a two-shot lead entering the final round. He finished tied for third that week; he’s no longer married to Evert.
Brandt Snedeker withdrew because of a rib injury and was replaced in the field by James Hahn.
Danny Lee also was at Royal Birkdale and is the next alternate. Next in line would be Jim Furyk, though he is playing a PGA Tour event in Alabama this week. This is the first major for which Furyk did not qualify since 1995.