An exciting week for Connor Syme has already got even more exciting after the 22-year-old Scottish amateur landed in the same group as 1995 winner John Daly, pictured left, in the opening two rounds of the 146th Open Championship.
Syme, making his debut in a major after producing a polished performance to come through one of the final qualifiers at Gailes Links a fortnight ago, was just 12 days old when Daly became champion at St Andrews in a play-off against Italian Costantino Rocca. “I just saw the draw and it’s cool. I can’t wait,” admitted the Drumoig player, who will also have Australian Adam Bland for company when he tees off at 11.47am on Thursday in a field that includes four other amateurs, including English duo Alfie Plant and Harry Ellis.
“A former champion – I’m really looking forward to that. It’s better than I thought it would be. I wasn’t sure, being a qualifier, if I would be at the back end of the times. I’m out early on Friday, which I don’t think is a bad thing. Everybody wants to avoid that 3.30 in the afternoon spot on Friday, so that’s good.”
Daly, still one of the game’s most colourful characters, recorded his maiden win on the Champions Tour earlier in the year and will be using this event to prepare for next week’s Senior Open Championship at Royal Porthcawl. “It’s good to see him back playing and I’ll be able to pick his brains about some of the events he has played in down the years and the things he has won,” added Syme, pictured right, last year’s Australian Amateur champion and currently sitting ninth in the World Amateur Golf Rankings.
“It will be incredible to play with him. My swing is a little shorter than his, he’s got a fair bit of torque, hasn’t he? I can’t wait to see him hit it because he still looks like he is bombing it on the Seniors Tour. It should be class. We’ll probably get a gallery and that should be good. I have a practice round with Paul Lawrie tomorrow as well. Two former champions, you can’t beat that.”
American Maverick McNealy and Italian Luca Cianchetti are Syme’s other rivals for the Silver Medal, won here, of course, by Justin Rose in 1998 then Chris Wood nine years ago. “Every amateur is striving to win the Silver Medal, that’s a target,” admitted Syme. “And making the cut is one of my other goals as well, to be here for the four days. “Outwith that I am just looking forward to the first tee shot. It’s a shot at a time, it’s as simple as that. I’m really looking forward to the challenge.”
First into the fray on Thursday out of a seven-strong Scottish contingent is former champion Sandy Lyle, who walked off here after just 10 holes in the first round nine years ago. Lyle, who was 11-over-par at the time, was criticised by then R&A chief executive Peter Dawson for quitting in tough weather conditions on the opening morning. The 59-year-old is out in the third match on this occasion, partnering 2009 winner Stewart Cink and Korea’s Jeunghun Wang.