“The Ping-Pong stories everybody’s heard? All pretty much true. He’s really good and really competitive. But my favorite Phil story was probably last year in Boston. I was playing with Phil and Ian Poulter and none of us were hitting it really good but we were all getting it up and down a good bit.
So we’re getting onto the first tee and Phil and Chris come over and give me hugs. It was a very emotional moment as was the whole week. There will never be a tougher hole for me to play but somehow I striped my first drive.
I’m not that old but I am a dinosaur. I started covering the Open long before the Internet existed. In those halcyon days writing only for a weekly magazine I would routinely sneak out of the press tent around supper time and play golf until the sun set around 10 p.m. Some combination of fellow SI warriors Michael Bamberger John Garrity and Gary Van Sickle served as wingmen. These twilight rounds on the linksland were one of the great pleasures of the job.
That was the first time I met Thompson. The second time came five days later. He was seated on a curb with a sharpie and British Open flag in hand. Throughout the week he had snagged an autograph from every Open champion on the property.
He didn’t mean that literally of course. He would be lugging a Tour bag all week and he’s plenty fit to do so. “I teach for a living and always teach with a club in my hand” Thompson clarified. “It’s like I was born with one in my hand. It’s always a part of me.”