And that’s the only way it is: ‘That’s Daddy’s friend Phil.’ Fast forward. Even though Phil has probably been around Abby Jane twice in her life they now send videos to each other. He’ll send one making fun of me or encouraging her to cheer for me.
We walked toward the green. The big clubhouse was dark and foreboding the town deserted. My heart skipped a beat when I finally saw my ball: perched tenuously on the precipice of the Valley of Sin 20 feet below the hole.
“I’ve never been paired with Phil. I’ve never played with Phil. But he’s always been a great guy to me. Real nice. One of the first interactions I ever had with him I was sitting down to lunch at Silverado Resort in Napa the first tournament of the year.
I stayed in St. Andrews during the Open or on its outskirts and I jogged several times through the old town. The Senior British Open is being played this week on the Old Course but that’s not why the course was closed for play on Sunday the day Francesco Molinari won 45 minutes up the coast in Carnoustie.
Searching for the balls was like an Easter egg hunt only more fun. My drive turned up well across the road that bisects the fairway. It was too dark to see the pin so I aimed for a streetlight that was roughly the center of the green.
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.”
Now it’s funny — but if I’d missed the putt it wouldn’t have been funny. Now he says he knew I was rattled and he wanted me to make that putt to win the match. So typical Phil trying to teach lessons. But it was wild. I mean a 25-footer!”
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.
Phil’s house is not far from the Callaway headquarters in Carlsbad so we see him pretty often. Phil plays…a lot. He’ll play with anyone who loves the game like he does. He’ll play with our son a high school senior two or three times a year.
I had a huge respect for him but you were inspired to beat guys like Phil. But as years went by we mellowed a bit. So when the Ryder Cup came round in 2006 I knew Phil and his wife Amy pretty well. That was a difficult Ryder Cup for me.
To which Phil who has shaken hands with a trillion golfers responded ‘You know Charlie I’ve thought of you every day since we met. In fact just yesterday I was wondering about how you your wife and your family have been doing.’
I got up on the next hole it’s my tee and just a 3-iron but I was rattled — I hit this 3-iron 100 yards right. So they win that hole. And then we get to the next hole a par 5 and we get up there and I’ve got 5 feet for birdie; Graham DeLaet has about 25 feet for his birdie.