SANDWICH (England): Sandy Lyle broke a 16-year home drought to capture the British Open at Sandwich in 1985 but finds himself something of a forgotten figure on his return for this year’s championship.
The unassuming Briton ushered an unprecedented era of European success in majors golf with the victory which he followed up with a triumph in the US Masters three years later.
But he told a news conference at Royal St George’s on Monday that none of Europe’s emerging young talents had asked his advice on a course he knows as well as anyone in the field.
“They all know too much these days, these young ones,” smiled 45-year-old Lyle ruefully.
He endured a lengthy slump during the 1990s but believes his reluctance to capitalise commercially on his major wins has contributed to his low-key profile these days.
“I think it all depends on how you want to see yourself go, if you want to go the Hollywood route and do the commercials and so on,” he said.
“But I shunned that kind of thing. They were there at the time but I didn’t want to do it. My golf to me was more important – unfortunately it went sour for a time in the 1990s.”
Lyle has an exemption for life, as a former winner but knows only too well that the game does not pamper its former contenders.
Only two years ago, Lyle’s boyhood rival and 1991 US Masters champion Ian Woosnam finished third at Royal Lytham behind David Duval and would have threatened the American further had not a mix-up over the number of clubs in his bag cost him two penalty shots at the beginning of his final round.
Now Woosnam has been forced to qualify for this year’s championship after playing in every Open since 1981.
Lyle believes the newly lengthened 7,106-yard course with its narrow fairways and high rough will be a tougher test than when he won with a two-over total in 1985.
“We’ve got a battle on our hands this year,” he said. “You have to drive the ball straight because if you go 20, 30 yards off line you just go deeper and deeper into the jungle and probably a no-return area.
“The type of player I think could do very well is not going to be a powerhouse-type player. It’ll be someone hitting a lot of long irons for positional play.
“But Tiger Woods can do that too. He’s very disciplined and will get around the golf course. You can’t leave Tiger out.”
Lyle has not completely discounted his own chances.
“I’ve been playing pretty reasonably the last few months, putting a lot of birdies on the card but bogeys and double-bogeys too. But my ambition here is to win, though if you gave me a top 10 place right now I’d be very happy.” – Reuters