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.
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.
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.
We talked about his sons the books he has written and is writing working with John Cleese in Titleist spots from long ago the modern game the old game. He didn’t lapse into Old Tom. We were in the here and now. If you like mystery and weird coincidences Scotland is a good place to be.
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.
Phil’s house is not far from the Callaway headquarters in Carlsbad so we see him pretty often. Phil plays…a lot. He’ll play with anyone who loves the game like he does. He’ll play with our son a high school senior two or three times a year.
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.”
“Walking to dinner with Phil one evening in Scotland a group of gentlemen came toward us and one of them shouted ‘Hey Phil remember me? I’m…’ — let’s just call him Charlie Golfer. ‘We shook hands the last time the Open Championship was here.’
“You want Phil stories? I wouldn’t even know where to start . There’s only so many guys on Tour that I can just look at and I’ll start laughing and Phil is right there near the top.
After that? Well it was time for some well-deserved rest. Not too much though. The English PGA Professional Championship begins Tuesday and he has a 2:13 local tee time. The British Open is upon us and so is another GOLF.com major pool.
We talked for a while he left came back in all his wooly Old Tom garb and told me his life story — that is Old Tom’s life story — in character. Holy crow. I wrote it up in a book. I’ve thought of Joy often over the years but I had never seen him since that day.
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.