The most stunning player-caddie breakup of 2017 was the Phil Mickelson-Jim “Bones” Mackay split. The golf world thought the two greeted each other each morning by saying, “You complete me.”
A close second is taking place at this week’s BMW Championship at Conway Farms. As first reported by Golf Channel, Jason Day is replacing mentor and coach Colin Swatton with Luke Reardon, a longtime friend from their native Australia.
Here’s what makes the timing even stranger: Day sizzled in the last tour event at Conway Farms, winning the 2015 BMW with scores of 61-63-69-69. He won by six shots.
Mackay, now an analyst for NBC, told the Tribune he was “very surprised” to hear the news of the Day-Swatton breakup.
“I don’t have any scoop,” Mackay said, “but as Jason has said, the story of those guys is one of the greatest player-caddie stories I’ve ever read. There’s a 10-minute documentary on YouTube that people would find amazing. What Jason came from and came through to get to where he is, Colin had a lot to do with it. It’s kind of cliche to call a player-caddie relationship brothers or relatives, but those two guys would be it. Whatever is going on, if Colin continues to be his teacher, that’s great for Jason. Whatever it is, what those guys have accomplished is borderline unbelievable.”
Swatton, who helped steer a reckless youth and became best man at Day’s wedding, reportedly will remain his coach. Day has not won since the 2016 Players Championship and needs a solid performance at Conway Farms to make next week’s Tour Championship. The top 30 players on the FedEx Cup points list advance, and he’s 28th entering Thursday’s first round.
What does this mean for Day this week?
“It can work both ways,” said Mackay, who is being inducted this week in the Western Golf Association’s Caddie Hall of Fame. “I remember back in the day with Greg Norman and Bruce Edwards split up. Greg won the next week, and I do think the player tends to have some success. He’s going to be fresh.
“It’s like going on a date with somebody else. Player-caddie relationships can be high-stress. That’s why there were players back in the early ’90s — Mark Calcavecchia and Curtis Strange — that had rotations of caddies because they didn’t want to be with the same guy week in and out. Times have changed, but it’s always cool to try something new. Then again, there are also as many stories as when guys split up with caddies and don’t play well after that.”
Mackay didn’t mention it, but Mickelson has had only one good result since putting brother Tim on his bag. He missed the cut in the season’s final two majors, finished between 20th and 54th three times but did break 70 in all four rounds two weeks ago at the Dell Technologies Championship, finishing tied for sixth.