The last time Lyle had a round without a bogey was about the time Pickles found the Jules Rimet Trophy. By the law of averages Lyle is not destined to be over familiar with the location of the fourth estate. His last win was the Volvo Masters at Valderrama in 1992 and that was such a shot out of the blue he had to go and have a lie down.
His victory in Spain gave him a massive credit note to make last year's Ryder Cup team and he still managed to blow it. He played so infrequently and when he did play, so unimpressively, that he drifted down the Order of Merit to avoid qualification. A bystander might think that this was golf's equivalent to criminal negligence but Lyle, who won the Open and the US Masters in the 80s, has made his bed and he has been lying in it.
It would be nice to think that Lyle will return to Europe's Ryder Cup fold, especially as he is a course and distance winner at Valderrama, but that is not for another three years and Lyle, despite the fact that he is obviously playing well, does not give the impression that his priorities have radically changed. His record on the European tour this season is: not played, not played, tied 26th, tied 41st, not played, not played, tied 18th, not played, not played, not played, not played, not played, not played, not played, tied 39th, missed cut.
Unless Lyle does something dramatic here, he will not get into the US Open next month. Unlike Seve Ballesteros he will not entertain the thought of qualifying. Yet, with a straight face, he said: 'Tournament-wise I am setting my schedule round the majors.'
Colin Montgomerie and Ballesteros, Nos 1 and 2 in the Order of Merit, did not have a good day. Big Monty, who invariably scores well over the Burma Road, was over par for the first time in 17 rounds.
However, Jozse-Maria Olazabal and Ernie Els, the Nos 3 and 4 in the money list, shot 67 and 66. We have come to expect this sort of scoring from the young South African, but after listening to the young Spaniard on Wednesday we did not beseige the William Hill tent to pour money on the new Masters champion. Olazabal said he was playing so badly he did not want to talk about it. Had he been a horse he would not have been at the races.
Like Lyle, Olazabal did not have a bogey on his card and at the 18th he chipped in from 70 yards for an eagle three. He also had three birdies, which was four fewer than Els's total. Els, who shot 61 in the course of winning the Desert Classic in Dubai at the beginning of the year, opened here with a birdie-three at the first, hitting a five-iron approach while others were going at the green with woods. The first is a tough par four of 471 yards and after his drive Els had 184 yards to the target. 'I felt comfortable out there,' he said. 'I am using my head a little bit better now. You must think round this course. Anything under 70 is a good score. My biggest fault used to be getting too far ahead of myself. I used to think about making a birdie at the 12th while I was playing the eighth . . that sort of thing.'
Els, who could have played rugby for the Springboks or cricket or tennis, is regarded as one of the longest hitters on the tour, but he admitted that when he played with Lyle in the Tournament Players' Championship in Florida in March, the Anglo-Scot's ball was sailing past his.
Wentworth may be playing long but about the only time Lyle trusted his driver yesterday was when he left the course in a courtesy car.
SCORES FROM WENTWORTH
VOLVO PGA CHAMPIONSHIP (West Course, Wentworth) Leading first- round scores (GB or Irl unless stated): 66 E Els (SA); 67 J M Olazabal (Sp), C Rocca (It); 68 M James, R Rafferty, S Lyle, M-A Jimenez (Sp), W Riley (Aus); 69 A Forsbrand (Swe), P Hedblom (Swe), C Hall, G Brand Jnr, E Romero (Arg), J Haeggman (Swe), B Langer (Ger), P Lawrie, D R Jones; 70 D Jones, P Teravainen (US), B Lane, R Boxall, M Clayton (Aus), S Richardson, R Davis (Aus), M Lanner (Swe), P Curry, G J Brand; 71 M Roe, T Johnstone (Zimb), D Gilford, R Allenby (Aus), C O'Connor Jnr, M A Martin (Sp), K Stables, J Coceres (Arg), J Payne, J McHenry, M Pinero (Sp), A Hunter, T Levet (Fr); 72 I Palmer (SA), P Price, P Way, D Clarke, G Turner (NZ), V Singh (Fiji), S Bowman (US), B Nelson (US), D Cooper, P Mayo, M Farry (Fr), J Bland (SA), D Curry, D A Russell, N Faldo, J Rivero (Sp), R Goosen (SA), P Mitchell, M Davis, P Fulke (Swe), S Grappasonni (It), J Carriles (Sp), A Binaghi (It); 73 M Mackenzie, M Harwood (Aus), R Chapman, S Ames (Trin), F Nobilo (NZ), P Baker, I Woosnam, S Ballesteros (Sp), D W Basson (SA), H Clark, M McNulty, C Mason, V Fernandez (Arg), J Spence, M Gates, R Drummond; 74 D Smyth, B Barnes, J Van de Velde (Fr), S Torrance, C Montgomerie, J Lomas, J King, J M Canizares (Sp), G Evans, G Levenson (SA), A Gillner (Swe), M Sunesson (Swe), M Mouland, B Marchbank, R Karlsson (Swe), B Gallacher, A Sorensen (Den), F Lindgren (Swe); 75 R Edwards, K Eriksson (Swe), L Westwood, A Oldcorn, C Everett, R Claydon, K MacDonald, P McGinley, P Broadhurst, J Berendt (Arg), D Hospital (Sp), A Sherborne, S Cipa, C Cassells, D Ray, D J Russell, P Eales, A Bossert (Swit), M McLean, S Luna (Sp); 76 M Miller, P Walton, S Russell, J Rystrom (Swe), A Murray, P-U Johansson (Swe), O Karlsson (Swe), S McAllister; 77 J Mellor, T Horton, S Struver (Ger), B Austin, P O'Malley (Aus), J Higgins, G Loughrey, P Fowler (Aus), J Robinson, S Tinning (Den); 78 G Furey, G Orr, E O'Connell, K Walker, J Hobday (SA), J Townsend (US), D Silva (Por); 79 J Hawkes (SA), O Sellberg (Swe), G Emerson; 80 R Weir, M Archer; 82 N Brown; 83 D Mooney. Retired E Darcy.
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