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.”
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 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.
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.
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 had a huge respect for him but you were inspired to beat guys like Phil. But as years went by we mellowed a bit. So when the Ryder Cup came round in 2006 I knew Phil and his wife Amy pretty well. That was a difficult Ryder Cup for me.
This was sort of my introduction into what the top dogs do. So we’re on the second hole and I think Charley was already up on him. You know they always gamble a certain amount of money. Phil’s about to tee off and he’s pretending to struggle. He was like ‘Oh gosh it’s so hard to swing.’ I was like what’s going on?
I jogged the course or parts of it on Sunday. I avoided Swilken Bridge. The tourists without any sort of official help were lined up to take snaps of it.
With Sean acting as caddie and gaffer Mike rapped a putt up the hill to 25 feet. I grinded with absurd intensity on my putt and hit a good one leaving a couple of feet.
A few years later Phil called me soon after Amy herself was diagnosed with breast cancer. You know Phil — he likes to know everything about everything. So he asked me loads of questions.
I was able to get him on the phone as we came off the course and Phil spoke with him for about 15 minutes. They chatted as if they were longtime friends talking about Phil’s strategy for the upcoming Tour events and where the exec liked to play golf.