Casey closes on top 20 as Lyle trails

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Paul Casey is on the verge of breaking into the world's top 20 for the first time after a brilliant eight-under-par 63 in the Madrid Open here yesterday. But Sandy Lyle is on the verge of losing the European tour card he has retained for 25 years following a six-over 77.

Casey, who has moved up to 22nd in the rankings after beginning the year at 104, is one shot ahead of Sergio Garcia and two in front of Padraig Harrington and Robert Karlsson after the first round.

Lyle, however, is close to last and, having run up two double bogeys and three bogeys, he said: "That's game, set and match, I think. I haven't got a cat in hell's chance."

The 45-year-old Scot needs a top nine finish to have any hope of keeping his place among the tour's top 40 career money-winners. Failure to do so will mean he has to seek special invitations from sponsors to play a full schedule next season. When an approach to the 16th hit a cart path and bounded a long way over the green into trouble, Lyle commented: "I was lucky to find my ball and that sums the year up - a year of knocks."

Casey, 26, whose round did not count as a course record-equalling effort because placing was allowed on the wet fairways, said: "I didn't expect much after two weeks off and not hitting it well the last two days. I was working on some stuff, but then decided to throw it out of the window and forget about how I was swinging it."

MADRID OPEN (Club de Campo): First round leading scores (GB or Irl unless stated): 63 P Casey. 64 S Garcia (Sp), 65 R Karlsson (Swe), P Harrington. 66 N O'Hern (Aus). 67 T Levet (Fr), G Havret (Fr), J Sandelin (Swe), M Moreno (Sp), A Cabrera (Arg), B Lane, P Fowler (Aus). 68 S Tinning (Den), M Roe, S Dodd, I Garrido (Sp), L Westwood, I Woosnam. 69 S Kjeldsen (Den), N Dougherty, W Bennett, B Dredge, M A Martin (Sp), P Lawrie, M Lafeber (Neth), S Hansen (Den), J M Lara (Sp), M Maritz (SA), A Coltart. Selected: 70 J M Olazabal (Sp). 71 P McGinley. 73 N Faldo. 75 C Rocca (It), P Eales. 76 S Ballesteros (Sp). 77 S Lyle.