Lyle finds way back into swing of big time

"When it comes to getting into tournaments in the last three or four years it has been very, very tough. The sponsors want the young flavours," he said shortly before the 20th anniversary of his victory at Royal St George's.

Where had it gone? Not the rush of time but the swing. "It started in 1989. I had a hard year in 1988, was tired and my swing seemed out of sync and eventually I stopped playing well. Before that if something went wrong then I would just blow it off in a couple of weeks, but this time the few weeks turned into a few months and I started tinkering with my swing, which was a big mistake."

Lyle's quest for the missing ingredient has gone on for 16 years, bringing him to the Open at St Andrews determined to prove that his was no token appearance, that he was better than just a bit player.

A first-round 74 suggested that he would be flirting with the cut line on Friday, but he rediscovered himself with one of the rounds of the day, a 67 that was followed up by a 69 so that he set off at around 1pm yesterday at six under par, and with high hopes of finishing well up the leader board. "You never know in golf," he said. "As I know only too well it can be there one day and gone the next. I'm up with the group pushing the leaders and after all I have been through that's extremely satisfying."

Partnered by Sean O'Hair, a 23-year-old Texan, Lyle almost had the sort of start that would have had the demons dancing in his head again. His opening tee shot went wildly right, almost finding the burn. He was less lucky with his second, dumping it into the burn in front of the green, forcing him into a penalty drop. One shot had gone but it could have been worse.

Lyle does not so much walk around a golf course as amble. He moves at a steady pace, arms loose, back as straight as a drill sergeant's. He heard generous applause because he is still a popular player. "Come on, Sandy," cried a young man with the flag of Scotland draped around his shoulders.

As any professional golfer will confirm a dropped shot is a shot lost. You have left it out there. Nevertheless Lyle got himself back to six under with a birdie at the par-five fifth, the result of an excellent drive and a fine second. Unfortunately, however, it did not kick-start Lyle's round. He gave a shot back then grabbed another birdie, but bogeyed again to reach the turn in 37 shots.

The inconsistency was symptomatic of Lyle's recent woes. He dropped another shot at the 10th, another at the 12th. "Just as I began to feel that my game was coming together something would go wrong," he said.

Golf watchers are not normally raucous. However, a group of young men made themselves heard, beerily taking up Lyle's cause. In position for the dramas ahead they sent up a great cheer when Lyle got up and down to make par at the dangerous 14th.

The greatest of Lyle's contemporaries, the six-times major winner Nick Faldo, was out there enjoying himself. Faldo had a remarkable back nine, three birdies, an eagle and two bogeys. Astonishingly, Faldo had a three-two finish. "When does anyone do that?" he asked. "Maybe once in 10 years." Faldo was so excited by his birdie at the 17th that he danced around the green, lapping up the applause. Technological developments in golf equipment have made the closing hole at St Andrews a birdie opportunity. Faldo went one better, sinking a long putt for eagle. Faldo had an eagle at the 18th in the first round of his victory in 1990, but had never had a birdie-eagle on the Old Course before. "Are you kidding?" he said, laughing. "Do you think I could sell that to the leaders? I'll start with a bid of £1m. It was a very unexpected surprise. I'm absolutely delighted."

For Lyle there was little consolation in a birdie at the last to finish at three under for the tournament. He went off to confront his demons.

New Articles
tvDownton Abbey Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Kellie Bright as Linda Carter and Danny Dyer as Mick Carter

EastEnders Christmas specials are known for their shouty, over-the-top soap drama but tonight the show has done itself proud thanks to Danny Dyer.

Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashion
Sport
sport
Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy
tvCall the Midwife Christmas Special
Sport
Laura Trott and Jason Kenny are preparing for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow
sport
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth with Tess Daly in the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special
tvLouis Smith wins with 'Jingle Bells' quickstep on Strictly Come Dancing's Christmas Special
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there