1. Why now?
Well, according to Phil Mickelson’s statement, he said: “Our decision is not based on a single incident. We just feel it’s the right time for a change.” While the news of their 25-year working relationship came as a shock, it’s worth remembering that Mickelson is currently in the midst of the longest winless streak of his career – dating back to the 2013 Open. And, having recently turned 47, he is now approaching the next phase of his career.
Bones has admitted he can’t see Phil playing on the Senior Tour so it seems like a freshening up so Phil can eke out the most of the four to five years he has left at the highest level.
2. Who will Mickelson team up with now?
For the time being, at least until the end of the season, it’ll be his brother, Tim, who will be on his bag. This isn’t a completely new situation for the duo as Tim – a former coach at Arizona State – stepped in to caddie for Phil earlier this year at the WGC-Mexico Championship after Bones was forced to depart mid-round with a stomach virus.
“Bones is irreplaceable,” Phil told reporters afterwards. “But on the positive side, I had a lot of fun with my brother.” At the time, Tim was adamant he had no interest in ever taking the job on full-time. “It was the first time we were able to do that, and it was fun,” Tim told Associated Press. “Trust me, I don’t want Bones’ job, though.” Well, he’s got it now – but how permanent will it prove to be?
3. What about Bones - whose bag will he pick up?
Here’s the thing: Tim was in Mexico that week in his role as manager to Jon Rahm, whom he coached at Arizona State. With the close relationship between the Mickelsons and the Spaniard, social media was rife with speculation that Bones would be perfected suited to Rahm and help curb his fiery on-course temper which was in full display at the US Open.
However, Rahm immediately quashed the talk by saying he was perfectly happy with current caddie Adam Hayes. “The rumour about me and Bones is both really unfair and untrue,” he said. “I love the relationship I have with Adam, he’s a great guy, and there’s no way I would change it.”
Caddies Craig Connelly and Mark ‘Fooch’ Fulcher also rushed to the defence of Hayes once the speculation started doing the rounds, highlighting the unfairness in touting for positions that are currently occupied.
Ryan, does Rahm not have a caddie?? https://t.co/Zuy0AcUKjK— Craig Connelly (@theweeman77) June 20, 2017
4. Will Bones even want another bag?
Hard to tell. In their time together, which includes five majors and 37 other PGA Tour wins, Phil has banked $83m in total earnings. Given caddies tend to get between 5% and 10% of that, it’s reasonable to assume Bones is already a multi-millionaire. He’s also 52, with two children about to get into their teenage years, and is coming off the back of double knee replacement surgery last year. Perhaps he's happy to call it a day.
It is likely TV companies will also be after his services after he drew very positive reviews when he worked as a reporter for Golf Channel (below) during the 2015 RSM Classic.
5. How does this compare to other long-standing player-caddie relationships?
Tom Watson was with Bruce Edwards (below) for nearly 30 years, with the exception of his Open Championship appearances, before the caddie's passing from Lou Gehrig’s disease in 2004. Another long-standing relationship was Bernhard Langer and Peter Coleman, who separated following the 2003 Open at Royal St George’s after 22 years together.
6. Have we seen the last of such long-standing relationships?
I think so. With the depth of talent in golf greater than it has ever been and the 21st century sporting mindset of looking to any little detail to improve performance and get the edge over rivals, I believe we’ll see players chop and change caddies on a far more regular basis.
So far this year, we’ve already seen Danny Willett part with the caddie who has helped him to his five European Tour wins – including the 2016 Masters – Billy Horschel ditched Micah Fugitt after five-and-a-half years, while Chris Wood and Mark Crane have also recently separated. Ian Poulter and Terry Mundy are also no longer together after 11 years, although that was down to the caddie's injury problems.
What seemed like an improbable break-up between Phil and Bones has now happened and, if Lefty has managed to make the call after 25 years together to pursue some final moments of glory, who’s to say his decision won’t have a big influence on other players out there?