Sandy Lyle may have been “dandy” yesterday, but that wasn’t the case here nine years ago. The 1985 winner was downright miserable, in fact, when he walked off after just 10 holes in the opening round in dismal conditions.
The big Scot came in for withering criticism from Peter Dawson, the then R&A secretary, due to the fact it seemed that he had simply thrown in the towel standing on 11-over-par, but he has finally revealed that wasn’t the case.
“I’ve played in terrible conditions before and since. It wasn’t that,” insisted the 59-year-old as he prepared for his 42nd Open. “I thought it was arthritis and I had X-rays done. But it was the nerve ends that run in between two of my fingers that caused the problem. My angle of attack with the irons was too steep. The right hand was getting tortured.”
The reaction to Lyle’s early exit, which left his professionalism being questioned, could well have cost the two-time major winner his chances of becoming Ryder Cup captain, an opportunity that has now well and truly passed him by.
“I knew I was going to be playing at Troon the next week in my first Senior Open,” he replied to being asked if he felt the reaction had been over the top at the time. “I was having an ugly time and I couldn’t feel my right hand. And it was only 8:30 in the morning, if that. I made a decision that it wasn’t worth carrying on and irritating my hand any more, meaning I couldn’t have played the next week.”
Lyle has missed the cut in every appearance but one since then, but is heading into this week’s event encouraged by the fact that Greg Norman, who was 53 at the time, led after the third round in 2008.
“If Greg can do what he did around here, then it leaves it open to some of the older ones this week to say, ‘you never know’,” said Lyle. “I’ve got a different style of putting, kind of like the Matt Kuchar one. When the pressure really gets on, I can’t do any silly flicks.”