He wasn’t expecting quite so many early birds to be around at 6.35am. “I was hoping I’d maybe get away with 20 people and 15 would have been probably part of my family,” said Sandy Lyle, smiling.
Not a chance when you are one of Scotland’s favourite sporting sons, having won two majors and umpteen other titles around the world, and are making what is likely to be your final appearance in the Open Championship.
To mark that, the 60-year-old was handed the honour of hitting the opening shot at Carnoustie, joining Colin Montgomerie and Mark O’Meara in being hand-picked by the R&A to get the event under way in recent years.
He jokingly looked at his watch as he arrived on the tee to see way more people there than he’d expected before splitting the fairway with his weapon of choice – a 4-iron.
“I was nervous last night, never mind this morning,” admitted Lyle, who is making his 42nd successive appearance in the event and 43rd in total – three fewer than the record holder, Gary Player. “I woke up about 1am this morning with one eye on the alarm clock. Then your mind starts thinking about the opening shot and things.
“They [the fans] were great. I think it was about 80 per cent full on that first hole, which was very good. I was very impressed.
“It was a pretty nice way to have the opening tee shot for The Open as I would say it was playing pretty docile today. For a pro, it wasn’t too bad hitting a 4-iron off the tee peg with no wind on one of the top three in terms of the firmest courses I’ve seen.”
Lyle, who needs either a top-ten finish here or a win in next week’s Senior Open at St Andrews to be in next year’s field at Royal Portrush, was going along nicely as he reached the turn in one-under, a shot better than playing partners Martin Kaymer and Andy Sullivan.
However, a spot of bunker trouble on the homeward journey – he was in sand four holes in a row from the 12th and took three shots to escape from a nasty spot at the back of one at the short 13th – left him having to settle for a four-over-par 75.
“After nine holes, I was very happy, but I wasn’t very happy with the last nine holes. That was a disappointing 75 as the course was up for grabs today,” said the 1985 winner. “I was in five bunkers on the back nine, which kind of wore me out a little bit.”
He won’t have to be watching that alarm clock for his second-round tee time. That’s at 11.36am and he’ll be giving it his all in a bid to say his goodbyes at this event on Sunday.
“Hopefully, we can shoot a low number, a couple under, and might have a chance,” he said of that attempt to make the halfway cut.