Golf: Signs of Lyle ancient and modern

Tim Glover watches a former champion endure and enjoy at Wentworth
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The Independent Online
WHEN the Shropshire lad was winning tournaments he had more brand names on his person than a Formula One driver. Yesterday Sandy Lyle went round the Burma Road like a hero who had been stripped of his decorations.

The former Open champion and Masters winner was playing with Thomas Bjorn and Ignacio Garrido, whose professional bags were emblazoned with Maxfli and Taylor Made.

Sandy had one of those cheap, nylon lightweight jobs that looked as if it had been bought at a golf sale on the A30. There was no name on the bag.

This phenomenon was partly explained by the fact that the bag was being carried by Sandy's wife, Jolande. "It's grind, grind, grind, grind, grind," said Mrs Lyle after yesterday's hero had gone round in 74 in the Volvo PGA Championship.

When Sandy was a champion, Jolande, a one-time physio on the European tour, used to tickle his feet. Through the good times and bad their partnership has endured, which is more than can be said for some of Sandy's sponsors.

The shirt and sweater contract with Lyle and Scott has expired (leaving only Scott?) as has his deal with the club manufacturer Callaway. He has returned to Mizuno with whom he once enjoyed great success. "I'm going back to what used to work," Sandy said. A straight driver, a crisp iron, or a miraculous seven iron out of a bunker, and a smooth, uninhibited putt? Not quite. The difference this time is that Mizuno are not paying him to endorse their clubs.

When he shot 69 in the first round on Friday, Lyle finished with an eagle three and had the crowd at Wentworth chattering about the return of good old Sandy. A genuine renaissance would be hugely popular amongst those who line the fairways. Yesterday he took an iron off the tee at the par five, 502-yard 18th. "I can't trust myself," he said. "It's a bit of a fight. I don't know what is going to happen next. I'm just happy to have got through the day. It's quite a long time since I've been playing at the weekend."

Sandy was referring to the fact that on the American tour he has made the cut in only one tournament in the last few months. His 74 here gave him an aggregate of 143, one under par at the half-way stage which means that he will still be in action today and tomorrow.

There was vintage and recent vintage Lyle: a six at the 12th where he hooked into trees, a birdie at the 13th and another six at the 15th. Lyle, who hasn't won a tournament in six years, is in his last year of his exemption on the US tour. "I'm going to continue playing in America for the time being," he said.

In the US, he still has a contract up his sleeve. It's with Toyota, but he was not allowed to advertise the fact at Wentworth. This is supposed to be Volvo's week and they have suffered quite enough as it is. The talking point has not been about Swedish cars or even the rise of Swedish golfers, but about a Lamborghini which was won by a member of the fourth estate for a hole in one at another course on Wednesday. The car has a list price of pounds 184,000. It's almost as much as the champion of the Volvo PGA will receive.

As the noticeboard in the press tent at Wentworth put it: "For sale - a brand new Lamborghini Diablo. One jammy owner. Contact Amateur Status Committee of the R & A. No hub-caps. Garaged in Liverpool."

The "jammy owner," Derek Lawrenson of the Sunday Telegraph, is a Liverpool supporter.

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