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.
“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.
We talked about his sons the books he has written and is writing working with John Cleese in Titleist spots from long ago the modern game the old game. He didn’t lapse into Old Tom. We were in the here and now. If you like mystery and weird coincidences Scotland is a good place to be.
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.
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 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.”
“Working at Callaway allowed me to get to know two icons of the game Arnold Palmer and Phil Mickelson. Phil has what Arnold had a certain swagger plus a twinkle in the eye. But the biggest thing is how much Phil loves golf. Arnold was the same way.
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.”
We talked for a while he left came back in all his wooly Old Tom garb and told me his life story — that is Old Tom’s life story — in character. Holy crow. I wrote it up in a book. I’ve thought of Joy often over the years but I had never seen him since that day.
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.
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.
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.’