Ian and Phil missed a couple of greens in the same spot and both got ’em down with unbelievable shots. We’re walking up to 18 and I said to Ian while Phil was walking a little ahead of us ‘I don’t know I might take you over Phil in a short game you know?’ He kind of laughs and goes ‘I don’t know about that.’
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.
On a par 3 I had hit it to about 25 feet and Phil hit it to about 35 feet. Phil made his putt which put the pressure on me. And he was chattering you know like he always does. I made the putt on top of him and he said ‘You know that ruined a great story right?’
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.
It was closed on Sunday because it is always closed on Sundays. It is closed on Sundays because Old Tom Morris famous custodian of the links wanted it closed on Sundays. He famously leaned out of his window one Sunday in a house overlooking the 18th green and said to the players below “If you dinna need a rest on the Sawbath the links does.”
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.”
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.
“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.
As we walked up the fairway my new friend was an open book. Thompson who teaches in central England just so happened to make the cut on the number at the 1999 Open at Carnoustie when it was dubbed Car-Nasty. To play four days at an Open he admits is a feat. (He’d help Enoch make the cut too. On the number because of course.)
Between the bed and breakfast host the cheery folks at the Dunvegan the Carnoustie road signs that say FAMOUS GOLF TOWN or even the Edinburgh airport’s Delta attendant there’s a consistent reminder in Scotland: we’re all players of this crazy game.
I first became aware of this bit of golf lore in 1991 courtesy of a man named David Joy an artist and actor and native son of St. Andrews who just then was developing Old Tom as a character.
“This year I played all four rounds at the Waste Management with Phil and it was incredible. I feel like I got the full Phil experience. But the coolest moment I’ve had with him was when I was on the Web.com Tour. I played a pickup round with Phil and Charley Hoffman at The Grand my home course in San Diego and  there’s so much banter between those guys.