Jim “Bones” Mackay doesn’t know how many people will question Phil Mickelson’s decision not to go for the green in two at the 72nd hole of the Farmers Insurance Open.
But he knows they will all have one thing in common.
“They didn’t see the lie,” Mackay said.
Down by a shot to Bubba Watson, Mickelson was left of the fairway, but only 228 yards away at Torrey Pines’ 520-yard closing hole.
“As we walked to the ball, we saw a lot of it and thought we got the break of the year,” Mackay said.
Now no one on tour is more aggressive than Mickelson – “he was itching to go for it,” said Mackay – but everything in the lie said no. The situation called for a “pronounced cut and there was a lot of grass so it would have been really hard to curve the ball,” Mackay said.
Mackay finds it comical to think people will debate the decision to lay up for days, especially since the decision process between caddie and player “lasted less than 10 seconds,” he said. “It was a no-brainer.”
That’s why it didn’t matter at all to Mickelson what was happening ahead. The left-hander played his second shot without waiting to see if Watson made birdie.
Watson did make the curling putt to push to 16 under and get two in front of Mickelson, who thus knew he had to hole a 72-yard sand wedge to force a playoff.
To enhance his chances for the improbable shot, Mickelson had Mackay tend the flagstick. Sure, some in the crowd laughed, but like the decision to lay up, this was a decision that was based on logic.
“I would say conservatively, Phil hits the flagstick on the fly 6-10 times a year,” Mackay said. “And he was only 72 yards away, his bread and butter.”
And Phil being Phil, guess what? He nearly pulled it off. With Mackay holding the flagstick, Mickelson hit a splendid shot near the hole, landed it on the slope, then watched it roll back.
Unfortunately for those hoping for a dramatic ending, the ball remained 5 feet short. Though he made the putt, Mickelson finished a shot behind Watson and it wasn’t the decision to lay up that had Mackay wondering “what if” when it was all over. Instead, he would have loved to have seen what Mickelson’s third shot into the 18th would have looked like without the soaking rain that came sweeping in a short time earlier.
“The rain softened the greens just a bit,” Mackay said. “If not for the rain, the ball might have backed up a little more.”