Thompson took over conversation. I just nodded and kept up. He talked about how much the rough had changed at Carnoustie. “The second shots are pretty easy around here” he said. “It’s about where you’re playing from.” Francesco Molinari might agree. All of this information came mostly unprompted within the first 10 minutes of meeting him.
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.
“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.
I was able to get him on the phone as we came off the course and Phil spoke with him for about 15 minutes. They chatted as if they were longtime friends talking about Phil’s strategy for the upcoming Tour events and where the exec liked to play golf.
I got up on the next hole it’s my tee and just a 3-iron but I was rattled — I hit this 3-iron 100 yards right. So they win that hole. And then we get to the next hole a par 5 and we get up there and I’ve got 5 feet for birdie; Graham DeLaet has about 25 feet for his birdie.
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.”
And Phil goes ‘Here Charley you mind holding onto this?’ And he pulls this wad of cash out of his back pocket! The whole day I was sitting in the cart just lookin’ around like ‘I’m not gonna say anything here; I’m just gonna let these guys battle it out.’ And it was so much fun. Phil showed how competitive fun he can make golf.”
Ernie Els Jordan Spieth Gary Player and 17 others. Even Tiger Woods. His caddying gig had finished hours earlier so Thompson sat alone flag in hand. There was one more champion signature to obtain and Molinari was just finishing his press conference.
She sent him one congratulating him on his win in Mexico this year. Everybody knows Phil’s a prankster but he’s also a genuinely great guy. He’s a dad. He gets it. It’s all of 15 20 seconds of his time but sending a video occasionally to my daughter is really special. It’s something most people wouldn’t know but that’s the Phil Mickelson I’m always gonna remember.”
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.
So all Graham has to do is miss his putt and we win the match. And Phil looks over at Graham and goes ‘Pick it up it’s good.’ And I looked over at Phil and I’m like Are you me? Now if I miss the putt we lose the hole. So I was pissed. But then sure enough I made the putt we won the match.