White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. — Phil Mickelson heads into the next phase of his career with a new caddie on a course marking its comeback from devastating floods in West Virginia.
Mickelson will have brother Tim on his bag starting today at The Greenbrier Classic in his first tournament since parting ways with his caddie of 25 years, Jim “Bones” Mackay.
Tim Mickelson, a former Arizona State coach who is the agent for former Sun Devils star Jon Rahm, will be his older brother’s caddie for the rest of the year. Phil Mickelson said Wednesday the new arrangement brings a comfort level that could help.
“Maybe he gets me a little bit more relaxed and takes a little bit of pressure off me and maybe I’ll play my best that way,” Phil Mickelson said. “But there’s no replacing Bones.”
The tournament was canceled last year after torrential downpours triggered flooding that killed 23 people statewide, including 15 in Greenbrier County, and caused extensive damage to The Greenbrier resort.
The bodies of three flood victims who lived in White Sulphur Springs were found on resort property. Trash, tires, vehicles, appliances and uprooted trees were everywhere on the Old White TPC. Sand was washed away from bunkers, leaving behind exposed drainage pipes. Near the 14th green, the flood surpassed a high-water mark set in 1915 by 6 fee
With much work to do on the resort grounds, owner and now-current West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice had no doubt there would be a tournament this year.
Greens and fairways were reseeded and resodded last summer. Many greens got new contours and bunkers were moved.
“This is the best I’ve ever seen this golf course,” said Bubba Watson, who has a summer home at The Greenbrier.
Justice, Mickelson and Watson wanted to help the community, too. Justice established a flood-relief charity, Neighbors Loving Neighbors, to help rebuild homes and lives. Mickelson donated $100,000 to the charity, while Watson and his wife, Angie, donated $250,000 to relief efforts. While Watson was playing the week after the floods in the Bridgestone Invitational in Akron, Ohio, Angie Watson drove the family truck with her young son to deliver water to families.
“People keep praising us for how much we did,” Angie Watson said. “We wish we could have done more.”
Mickelson also is having a home built at the resort and is redesigning the 93-year-old Greenbrier Course, which hosted the 1979 Ryder Cup and 1994 Solheim Cup and also was hit hard.
He’s here this week to try to break a four-year winless streak.
“Of course I feel the pressure,” said Mickelson, 47. “I don’t feel old at all but I understand the math. Even though it’s been a few years since I’ve won, I’m excited about the challenge. I know I’m going to win again. I just don’t know when exactly. I enjoy the challenge of trying to play against these great young players.”
Rory logs off
Rory McIlroy is taking a break from social media after getting in a Twitter spat with fellow golfer Steve Elkington.
After McIlroy missed the cut by four shots at the U.S. Open last month, Elkington, a former U.S. PGA champion, tweeted that McIlroy, a Northern Irishman, was “bored” of playing golf because he had plenty of money in the bank.
McIlroy, a four-time major winner, sent a tweet in response to Elkington, before posting a screenshot of his Wikipedia entry which lists some of his achievements.
“I sort of regret sending it at the end,” McIlroy said Wednesday, “but I actually gave my wife, Erica, my phone and my Twitter and told her, ‘Change my password to something else and don’t tell me what it is.’
“So as of the time being, I’m off social media just because of that reason. I don’t need to read it.”
Speaking ahead of the Irish Open at Portstewart Golf Club, an event which benefits his own foundation, McIlroy said he would have ignored the criticism if it had come from a member of the public or media.
“But a former player that has won a major and been successful, that’s sort of why it got to me,” McIlroy said, “and that’s why I sort of retaliated a little bit.”
McIlroy hasn’t seriously contended at a major since winning the 2014 PGA Championship.