Six weeks earlier Heather my wife had died from breast cancer. But it was her wish that I play if offered a pick by Captain Woosnam. Lee Westwood and I were the last match out on Friday morning and who do we draw to compete against but Chris DeMarco and Phil Mickelson.
On Friday after a long day at the paragraph factory I met Bamberger and fellow colleague Sean Zak for a late dinner in St. Andrews. It’s a bit of a drive to get from there to Carnoustie but I had chosen to stay in the Auld Grey Toon because I love it so much.
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.)
“The Ping-Pong stories everybody’s heard? All pretty much true. He’s really good and really competitive. But my favorite Phil story was probably last year in Boston. I was playing with Phil and Ian Poulter and none of us were hitting it really good but we were all getting it up and down a good bit.
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.
“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!”
Across my whole time at the Open this was all the golf I played. It’s a lot of work to lug your clubs to Scotland to play only one hole. It was worth it.
“Oh gosh they’re probably running 20-plus” he said of the hard-pan runways. “The greens maybe 10 1/2.” Next question: Why the wedge? “I’ve just had this one re-shafted” he said sounding like a player. “I struggle to walk anyway without a club in my hand.”
After that? Well it was time for some well-deserved rest. Not too much though. The English PGA Professional Championship begins Tuesday and he has a 2:13 local tee time. The British Open is upon us and so is another GOLF.com major pool.
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.
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.
You’re trying to hit it low you put it on the back foot…’ It was quite funny just him talking about how many guys put the ball in the middle of their stance and struggle chipping. In my opinion he’s the best short-game artist of all time so I definitely took notes. No hesitation. It went into play right away that week.”