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.
My wedge shot felt a hair thin but right on line. Mike played his shot just short of the green while sadly Sean was in pocket both his drive and mulligan having disappeared into the night.
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.
“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.
I thought I had created a story by making my putt but he didn’t see it that way. The best way to describe Phil is . And I mean that in the most respectful way. The shots he hits or the decisions he’s made on the course that aren’t so great he forgets.
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.
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.
“Phil’s style — the way it comes through on TV with the fans is the way he comes through with his friends too. We were playing a practice round at the Presidents Cup a team match to get ready for the format.
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.
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.
Then I noticed an artist’s studio behind it filled with spectacular modernistic seascapes. There was a note from the artist inside: if you wanted to see him knock on the door in the house behind it. It was starting to feel familiar.
“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!”