Golf Channel's "Bones" Mackay Dishes On Covering Open, Mickelson
The Open Championship descends upon Northern Ireland for the first time since '51 at Royal Portrush Golf Club tomorrow, and NBC/Golf Channel has full coverage of the tournament to show off the hallowed course that most American fans have never seen before. On-course reporter Jim “Bones” Mackay has been across the pond for a few weeks covering the Irish and Scottish Opens for the net and arrived at Royal Portrush earlier this week to begin his Open Championship prep work. The longtime PGA Tour caddie, who was on the bag for Phil Mickelson’s ’13 Open win at Muirfield, took a few minutes to speak with THE DAILY about his expectations for this week. Below are excerpts from a Q&A, some of which have been edited for brevity and clarity.
Q: Will Royal Portrush make for a good TV viewing experience?
Mackay: It’s going to be incredible. It is, other than maybe St Andrews, the most picturesque golf course I’ve seen hosting an Open Championship. The sightlines are amazing. This is one of the most revered courses in the world. A number of years ago people weren’t sure if it was ever going to host a tournament like this, but here we are. We’re looking forward to showing this gem that a lot of people have heard a lot about but maybe haven’t seen.
Q: What storylines are you interested in this week?
Mackay: You can’t overstate the whole Rory McIlroy factor this week. This is going to be amazing television. When you look at how excited everyone is to have the tournament here and the fact that one of their native sons is coming here playing a golf course that he has the course record on that is in -- to some degree -- his backyard. We are going to have a lot of fun covering that.
Q: How familiar are you with Royal Portrush?
Mackay: I was on this golf course 22 years ago playing with some friends. I came over here the week before the ’97 Ryder Cup, which was held in Spain, and we played some golf.
Q: How have you prepped for the tournament, given your unfamiliarity with the course?
Mackay: I took a long walk around the golf course on Tuesday, had a long look at it and did my caddie thing where you try to memorize everything and took in as much as I could. You want to be able to answer any question you're asked. The wind could blow 15mph out of the west, but if the wind blows 5mph out of the east it’s a completely different golf course. You just have to imagine these scenarios with hole locations and winds and rehearse it all in your head in case it happens on one of the tournament days.
Q: What is different about links golf as a broadcaster?
Mackay: Pre-shot, you may talk about something the player absolutely cannot do. When the caddies walk this golf course, say you’re putting X’s in your yardage book for places you can’t go, you could run out of ink pretty quickly. It’ll be our job to alert the viewer as to what the players are dealing with prior to hitting the shot.
Q: Have you fully adjusted to life as a broadcaster instead of caddying?
Mackay: It certainly takes a year to get over the fact that you’re not part of the competition anymore. But it’s been a couple years now and it gets easier. I consider myself a caddie out there and try to talk about it from a caddie perspective. It’s all about picking apart the golf course and picking up on things that are going on between the player and the caddie as play unfolds.
Q: You haven’t covered Mickelson’s group on air yet. Is that something you would be open to?
Mackay: If it was the right circumstances, yes. That’s not my decision. I was certainly told initially when I came to work here that it was something they wanted to let a certain amount of time go by to let things settle. I did the Palm Springs event in ‘18 and covered the group behind him, and some people in the crowd were yelling some stuff out. We want him to be able to compete on the fairest playing field possible and not have me being in front of him or behind him be an issue or certainly the same group.
Q: Would Mickelson make a good golf broadcaster in the future?
Mackay: Yes, certainly he’s got a tremendous memory so he can tell a lot of stories. He’s very opinionated and been there and done that. He’s got a tremendous amount of credibility, so yeah, I would absolutely think yes.