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.
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!”
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 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.
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.
On a par 3 I had hit it to about 25 feet and Phil hit it to about 35 feet. Phil made his putt which put the pressure on me. And he was chattering you know like he always does. I made the putt on top of him and he said ‘You know that ruined a great story right?’
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.)
“Earlier this year we were hosting a client golf outing with Phil at Congressional. I mentioned to him that one of the execs a CFO and a big Phil fan had to decline and was really disappointed. Phil suggested he just give the guy a call.
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.
Later that week we learned the CFO was ‘flying high after the call’ and that KPMG had won an important piece of his business. Our team was thrilled and credited Phil with helping to close the deal.”
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.
One time David lost and Phil said to him ‘Don’t worry you can pay me when you turn pro.’ One Friday at the Farmers Insurance Open the weather was just horrible. Cold blowy sideways rain. Phil made a mess of his last hole on Friday and missed the cut. Saturday’s weather was no better.