“I can’t remember the first time I met Phil.  I’m getting old! But I’ve played a lot of golf with him over the years. Early on we never really got on that well. We were competitors.
He didn’t mean that literally of course. He would be lugging a Tour bag all week and he’s plenty fit to do so. “I teach for a living and always teach with a club in my hand” Thompson clarified. “It’s like I was born with one in my hand. It’s always a part of me.”
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
We all missed the 18th green and had similar flop shots. I hit mine in the bunker. Poulter hit his about 15 feet past. Phil hit the famous Phil flop — lands on an upslope spins up the hill trickles down to like six or eight inches. Poulter winks at me and goes ‘He’s still got me.’ And I went ‘Yeah he’s got everybody.”
As the pros roll into Carnoustie are you team Tiger or pro-Phil? Do you like Justin Thomas or Jordan Spieth? Will Carnoustie once again be Car-nasty? Correct answers to those questions could help you win a custom set of Wilson Staff FG Tour Raw V6 Irons.
Searching for the balls was like an Easter egg hunt only more fun. My drive turned up well across the road that bisects the fairway. It was too dark to see the pin so I aimed for a streetlight that was roughly the center of the green.
So we’re getting onto the first tee and Phil and Chris come over and give me hugs. It was a very emotional moment as was the whole week. There will never be a tougher hole for me to play but somehow I striped my first drive.