“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.
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.”
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.
Times change. Last week I was at Carnoustie until dark every night — typing for GOLF.com tweeting taping videos and podcasts. My clubs were locked away in the trunk of my rental car like a dirty secret.
“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.’
I had heard about him from a faculty member at the University of St. Andrews and went to visit him in an old stone farmhouse on the outskirts of town. It was an extraordinary afternoon.
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.
When I spotted a caddie on Carnoustie’s 4th tee box all alone Tuesday evening I was reminded of that again. There was Martyn Thompson charting the course for Rhys Enoch the (now) 412th-ranked player in the world. It was 6 p.m. local time and Thompson held a 58-degree wedge.
With Sean acting as caddie and gaffer Mike rapped a putt up the hill to 25 feet. I grinded with absurd intensity on my putt and hit a good one leaving a couple of feet.
I stayed in St. Andrews during the Open or on its outskirts and I jogged several times through the old town. The Senior British Open is being played this week on the Old Course but that’s not why the course was closed for play on Sunday the day Francesco Molinari won 45 minutes up the coast in Carnoustie.
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.
“Oh gosh they’re probably running 20-plus” he said of the hard-pan runways. “The greens maybe 10 1/2.” Next question: Why the wedge? “I’ve just had this one re-shafted” he said sounding like a player. “I struggle to walk anyway without a club in my hand.”