“You want Phil stories? I wouldn’t even know where to start . There’s only so many guys on Tour that I can just look at and I’ll start laughing and Phil is right there near the top.
We fed off each other all week. It just so happened that that week was when my youngest daughter Abby Jane started to kind of realize ‘Dad’s not home. Where is he?’ But she saw me on TV and saw that I was playing not with Phil Mickelson but with Daddy’s friend.
One half of me thought “Leave him alone. Let the man do his job.” The other half said “Damn it ask him about Carnoustie’s wicked-fast fairways!” Curiosity may have killed the cat but it nurtured our convo.
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.
Times change. Last week I was at Carnoustie until dark every night — typing for GOLF.com tweeting taping videos and podcasts. My clubs were locked away in the trunk of my rental car like a dirty secret.
I knocked on the door and David Joy answered. He remembered our visit and he had the book on his shelf with hundreds of others. He’s in his late 60s and recovering from a stroke and learning to paint again and doing it spectacularly well.
“I’ve had a couple of interactions with Phil but the one time I really talked to him was at Oakmont in 2016 right after the St. Jude where he hit this shot on No. 17. He was right up against a tree and he hit a big slingin’ hook around the tree to about six feet. I walked up to him at Oakmont and was like ‘Dude that was the greatest shot I think I’ve ever seen in my .’And he was like ‘You liked that? You liked that?’ I was like ‘Yeah!”
One time David lost and Phil said to him ‘Don’t worry you can pay me when you turn pro.’ One Friday at the Farmers Insurance Open the weather was just horrible. Cold blowy sideways rain. Phil made a mess of his last hole on Friday and missed the cut. Saturday’s weather was no better.
And Phil goes ‘Here Charley you mind holding onto this?’ And he pulls this wad of cash out of his back pocket! The whole day I was sitting in the cart just lookin’ around like ‘I’m not gonna say anything here; I’m just gonna let these guys battle it out.’ And it was so much fun. Phil showed how competitive fun he can make golf.”
She sent him one congratulating him on his win in Mexico this year. Everybody knows Phil’s a prankster but he’s also a genuinely great guy. He’s a dad. He gets it. It’s all of 15 20 seconds of his time but sending a video occasionally to my daughter is really special. It’s something most people wouldn’t know but that’s the Phil Mickelson I’m always gonna remember.”
I had heard about him from a faculty member at the University of St. Andrews and went to visit him in an old stone farmhouse on the outskirts of town. It was an extraordinary afternoon.