Lure of St Andrews sees Sandy Lyle tee up 'last shot' at The Open
It seemed as though Lyle, the 1985 winner, had written the final chapter in his story in the Claret Jug event as he was handed the honour of teeing off first at Carnoustie in 2018, when he was exempt for the last time after turning 60 earlier that year.
But, tempted by this year’s event being the 150th edition and also that being held at St Andrews, the two-time major winner is taking a step back in time in a bid to pull off what would be a remarkable achievement.
The 64-year-old is teeing up in Tuesday’s Final Qualifying event at St Annes Old Links, where he passed a similar test back in 1974 to play in his first Open at Royal Lytham.
“It is basically going to be my last shot at The Open,” Lyle, who clocked up his 100th major appearance in The Maters in April, told The Scotsman before heading out for a practice round on Monday.
“Being the 150th, it’s a little bit special and also being at St Andrews is the biggest draw for me as it’s a course I know pretty well now, having played it on a regular basis over the last few years.
“I don’t think I’ll be trying again in a qualifier for The Open Championship and, if I can get through tomorrow, which is a bit of a laugh, I suppose, with only four spots up for grabs, it would be fantastic.”
Lyle, who has played in 43 Opens, is one of the star names in four Final Qualifying fields, with four coveted berths also up for grabs at Fairmont St Andrews, Hollinwell and Prince’s.
“Well, I don’t know,” said the affable Scot of his presence likely to attract a crowd at St Annes Old Links . “There might be and, if there’s several hundred people there, all for the good.”
On the state of his game, he added: “I had a nice few days up in Skibo, where I played in various weather, as I was looking after some people. I also played round St Fillans, my local nine-hole course, the other day.
“It’s okay. It’s not competition golf, I’ve just got to keep my mind on scoring, make some birdies and see how we go from there.”
Recent Tartan Pro Tour winner Danny Kay and PGA EuroPro Tour players Calum Fyfe and Robbie Morrison are also flying the Saltire on the Lancashire coast, but it’s Lyle who can create the biggest story.
“I’ve got one one of my old friends, Michael Welch, carrying the bag for me,” he said. “He used to be with my dad in the early days and my dad taught him. He did wonderfully well as an amateur but didn’t quite fulfil his dreams as a professional golfer.
“He’s doing more coaching and teaching now. I’ve not seen him for quite a few years and I’m looking forward to seeing him again. Maybe he might sprinkle a bit of dust on me and see some things I didn’t see and we might hit gold.”
Brothers Calum and Sandy Scott are in the field at Fairmont St Andrews along with 2020 Scottish Open champion Aaon Rai and also Grant Forrest, who won the Hero Open at the same venue on the DP World Tour last year.
Meanwhile, the hopefuls at Prince’s in Kent include Ryan Lumsden, who played in the 2018 US Open as an amateur, and former Walker Cup player Jack McDonald.
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