It was a moonless night but the hotels lining the fairway provided some ambient light as did the flashlights on our phones. Mike Sean and I ripped our drives the sound echoing off the buildings like gunfire as the balls disappeared into the gloaming.
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.)
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?’
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?
It was closed on Sunday because it is always closed on Sundays. It is closed on Sundays because Old Tom Morris famous custodian of the links wanted it closed on Sundays. He famously leaned out of his window one Sunday in a house overlooking the 18th green and said to the players below “If you dinna need a rest on the Sawbath the links does.”
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.
He knows all about the movie about Young Tom Morris that came out last year but kept his distance from it. He played Old Tom hundreds of times in various parts of the world.
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.”
Of course Phil being Phil after the Euros lost at Hazeltine ten years later he comes up to me in his Team USA onesie whilst I was having a drink with Davis Love and he gets on me like you wouldn’t believe just giving me all kinds of guff. Brutal but brilliant! But that’s who Phil is: a character a competitor — a natural-born winner.”
To which Phil who has shaken hands with a trillion golfers responded ‘You know Charlie I’ve thought of you every day since we met. In fact just yesterday I was wondering about how you your wife and your family have been doing.’
Thompson was tired but committed to the task. He didn’t drive six hours caddie (successfully) for seven days and pester 20 legends for autographs just to let Mr. Molinari off the hook. Rest assured he’d get that signature.