Times change. Last week I was at Carnoustie until dark every night — typing for GOLF.com tweeting taping videos and podcasts. My clubs were locked away in the trunk of my rental car like a dirty secret.
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.
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.”
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.
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.)
“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.
One half of me thought “Leave him alone. Let the man do his job.” The other half said “Damn it ask him about Carnoustie’s wicked-fast fairways!” Curiosity may have killed the cat but it nurtured our convo.
I stayed in St. Andrews during the Open or on its outskirts and I jogged several times through the old town. The Senior British Open is being played this week on the Old Course but that’s not why the course was closed for play on Sunday the day Francesco Molinari won 45 minutes up the coast in Carnoustie.
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.”
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.”
It was ’round midnight when dinner adjourned. There was never any doubt of the next stop: the 18th tee of the Old Course. We parked on The Links road and walked briskly across the ancient sod.
I’m not that old but I am a dinosaur. I started covering the Open long before the Internet existed. In those halcyon days writing only for a weekly magazine I would routinely sneak out of the press tent around supper time and play golf until the sun set around 10 p.m. Some combination of fellow SI warriors Michael Bamberger John Garrity and Gary Van Sickle served as wingmen. These twilight rounds on the linksland were one of the great pleasures of the job.