We all missed the 18th green and had similar flop shots. I hit mine in the bunker. Poulter hit his about 15 feet past. Phil hit the famous Phil flop — lands on an upslope spins up the hill trickles down to like six or eight inches. Poulter winks at me and goes ‘He’s still got me.’ And I went ‘Yeah he’s got everybody.”
On Friday after a long day at the paragraph factory I met Bamberger and fellow colleague Sean Zak for a late dinner in St. Andrews. It’s a bit of a drive to get from there to Carnoustie but I had chosen to stay in the Auld Grey Toon because I love it so much.
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.
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.
Six weeks earlier Heather my wife had died from breast cancer. But it was her wish that I play if offered a pick by Captain Woosnam. Lee Westwood and I were the last match out on Friday morning and who do we draw to compete against but Chris DeMarco and Phil Mickelson.
It was a moonless night but the hotels lining the fairway provided some ambient light as did the flashlights on our phones. Mike Sean and I ripped our drives the sound echoing off the buildings like gunfire as the balls disappeared into the gloaming.
Across my whole time at the Open this was all the golf I played. It’s a lot of work to lug your clubs to Scotland to play only one hole. It was worth it.
So all Graham has to do is miss his putt and we win the match. And Phil looks over at Graham and goes ‘Pick it up it’s good.’ And I looked over at Phil and I’m like Are you me? Now if I miss the putt we lose the hole. So I was pissed. But then sure enough I made the putt we won the match.
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.
He knows all about the movie about Young Tom Morris that came out last year but kept his distance from it. He played Old Tom hundreds of times in various parts of the world.
On Wednesday of Open week I went for a run first into town then up a long long hill out of town. I don’t map or plan my runs. I just run until I don’t feel like it anymore or until something captures my interest and I kept going up this country-lane hill and for some reason was not getting tired. When I saw a spectacular-looking restaurant in the middle of farm fields I stopped to take a look.
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.