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.
That was the first time I met Thompson. The second time came five days later. He was seated on a curb with a sharpie and British Open flag in hand. Throughout the week he had snagged an autograph from every Open champion on the property.
“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!”
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.
“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.
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’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.
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.
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.
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.
So all Graham has to do is miss his putt and we win the match. And Phil looks over at Graham and goes ‘Pick it up it’s good.’ And I looked over at Phil and I’m like Are you me? Now if I miss the putt we lose the hole. So I was pissed. But then sure enough I made the putt we won the match.
When I spotted a caddie on Carnoustie’s 4th tee box all alone Tuesday evening I was reminded of that again. There was Martyn Thompson charting the course for Rhys Enoch the (now) 412th-ranked player in the world. It was 6 p.m. local time and Thompson held a 58-degree wedge.