“Did you ever get bored with it?” “Never” he said. “It was never scripted. I never did it the same way twice.” I asked him what his lowest handicap ever was. “A grumpy two” he said. He talked about how practice was frowned upon in his golfing boyhood. Even practice swings. “We practiced by playing” he said.
But as it happened I was paired with Phil for the closing ceremony and as we walked off the stage Amy bless her stepped between us and grabbed my hand. It was one of the most touching things anyone has ever done for me. Their support was huge.
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 consider him a really good friend so I’ll give you the Cliff Notes on the story that sticks out in my mind. It’s 2015 we were paired at the Presidents Cup all of the matches and we didn’t lose.
Now it’s funny — but if I’d missed the putt it wouldn’t have been funny. Now he says he knew I was rattled and he wanted me to make that putt to win the match. So typical Phil trying to teach lessons. But it was wild. I mean a 25-footer!”
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.
Everything he was about to go through I’d already been through so I tried to help him and Amy any way I could. I don’t know if I did help but it was nice to know I could give a little back to them. It’s been great to see Amy come through this whole thing. A happy ending that one.
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.
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.
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.”
She sent him one congratulating him on his win in Mexico this year. Everybody knows Phil’s a prankster but he’s also a genuinely great guy. He’s a dad. He gets it. It’s all of 15 20 seconds of his time but sending a video occasionally to my daughter is really special. It’s something most people wouldn’t know but that’s the Phil Mickelson I’m always gonna remember.”
“Walking to dinner with Phil one evening in Scotland a group of gentlemen came toward us and one of them shouted ‘Hey Phil remember me? I’m…’ — let’s just call him Charlie Golfer. ‘We shook hands the last time the Open Championship was here.’