We fed off each other all week. It just so happened that that week was when my youngest daughter Abby Jane started to kind of realize ‘Dad’s not home. Where is he?’ But she saw me on TV and saw that I was playing not with Phil Mickelson but with Daddy’s friend.
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.
“The Ping-Pong stories everybody’s heard? All pretty much true. He’s really good and really competitive. But my favorite Phil story was probably last year in Boston. I was playing with Phil and Ian Poulter and none of us were hitting it really good but we were all getting it up and down a good bit.
Charlie Golfer completely overwhelmed was speech-less for several seconds. He then enthusiastically related that his family was doing great spun around and left with his chest puffed out telling his friends ‘See? I told you he was the nicest guy ever. And he’s got a helluva memory!”
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.
“I have a Phil story from Muirfield Village at the 2013 Presidents Cup. We were doing really well playing alternate shot and we were dormie 6 up with whatever left to play. And I had about a 5-foot putt on 13 to win the match — and it 360ed the hole. Lipped out.
“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.
“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.
“Phil’s style — the way it comes through on TV with the fans is the way he comes through with his friends too. We were playing a practice round at the Presidents Cup a team match to get ready for the format.
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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.