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.”
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.
You know he made me feel guilty! Like nobody can chip compared to you you know? So he’s like ‘It’s unbelievable but when you’re chipping and you’re trying to hit it high you gotta put it on the front foot.
“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.
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 first became aware of this bit of golf lore in 1991 courtesy of a man named David Joy an artist and actor and native son of St. Andrews who just then was developing Old Tom as a character.
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.
That was the first time I met Thompson. The second time came five days later. He was seated on a curb with a sharpie and British Open flag in hand. Throughout the week he had snagged an autograph from every Open champion on the property.
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.
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.”
“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.