I thought I had created a story by making my putt but he didn’t see it that way. The best way to describe Phil is . And I mean that in the most respectful way. The shots he hits or the decisions he’s made on the course that aren’t so great he forgets.
“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.
Then I noticed an artist’s studio behind it filled with spectacular modernistic seascapes. There was a note from the artist inside: if you wanted to see him knock on the door in the house behind it. It was starting to feel familiar.
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.
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.
“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!”
“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.”
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?
As Mike was lining up his putt I became aware of a presence on the edge of the green a gent watching us intently. Gulp. Johnny Law? Still nothing was keeping me from consummating the hole. I stroked in a left-edge bender for one of the most satisfying pars of my life.
I thought Well at least he can have a day off be inside warm and dry. The next thing I heard was that Phil and Keegan Bradley were playing on that Saturday at Phil’s home course The Bridges in a cold rain. As I heard it Phil took him. He seems to come out on top a lot. But the point really is that Phil has to play. Golf is in Phil’s blood.”
And it’s a great quality to have. He gets knocked down and gets right back up again I don’t know how many times. You can’t even count — and it’s made him a champion.”
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.