Jordan Spieth was the one holding the club on Sunday at the Open Championship, but don’t overlook his caddie’s role in his back nine for the ages.
Spieth ran into trouble on the 13th hole at Royal Birkdale, driving his ball 100 yards to the right of the fairway before declaring an unplayable lie. Facing a blind shot, the Texan estimated that he was 270 yards from the front of the green, but his looper, Michael Greller, ran to the top of a nearby hill and realised Spieth was really around 230 yards away. Spieth’s ensuing approach shot was off-line, but having the correct distance allowed him to escape with a bogey.
The 23-year-old went on to rebound in style, making birdie or better on the next four holes to reclaim the lead. But it was Greller who came to the rescue when Spieth found himself in his stickiest situation of the week, and former PGA Tour caddie Jim “Bones” Mackay, who spent over 20 years on Phil Mickelson’s bag, took notice.
“You could make the argument that was the most critical yardage ever given to a player in the history of golf,” Mackay said on Golf Channel’s “Morning Drive.” “Jordan is off the grid there, and Michael, once they found the ball, had to go to the top of the dune, he’s got to eyeball it back to the ball, he’s got to eyeball it toward the green, add it up, and give it to his man with hopefully the right line. If he gets that wrong, and the ball goes into a bunker or into a gorse bush, they are in a lot of trouble…What Michael did there, in his little piece, because obviously he’s not hitting the shot, is one of the most amazing things a caddie has ever done.”
That’s high praise coming from Mackay, who now works as an on-course reporter for NBC and was present at the British Open. The caddie won five major titles with Mickelson, advising him on some of his greatest shots along the way.
Many of the PGA Tour’s player-caddie relationships have a boss-employee dynamic, but Spieth and Greller are regarded as a true partnership. Spieth has been effusive in his praise of Greller from the beginning of his career, leaning on him for advice and beginning many of his sentences with “we” in press conferences.
“Mike’s my right-hand man. He’s the only other guy on course who can help influence what happens,” Spieth said in 2015. “He’s doing a great job for me. And each week we’re learning a little bit more. Still are.”
This isn’t the first time that Greller has been recognised by his peers — he won HSBC’s Caddie of the Year award back in 2015, the year he and Spieth won five PGA Tour events together. The tandem will make its next start in August at the PGA Championship.