Ballesteros pleads Lyle's case to stay on tour circuit

Seve Ballesteros has called for a change in the European tour rule which could see Sandy Lyle lose his exempt status after 25 years.

Lyle needs at least a top-nine finish in the Madrid Open, which begins today, to have any chance of keeping his place as one of the circuit's top 40 career money-winners. Ballesteros believes it is wrong that someone who lifted the Open and US Masters, topped the Order of Merit three times and won 25 tournaments between 1979 and 1992 should find themselves in such a position.

"I think that's bad," he said. "Sandy is still a great champion and brings people to the course. I think they should take that into consideration and change the rule."

Lyle has earned nearly £3m in his European career, but 25 players have picked up £500,000 this season. He won less than £40,000 the first time he led the Order of Merit in 1979. His plight this week was not helped by his clubs arriving a day after he did.

Without his exempt status he would need to rely on sponsors' invitations or those events where he is a past champion.