Lyle shrugs off cancer scare to be at Masters

Even when you happen to be standing in heaven it cannot be easy to dismiss a cancer scare that happened just 10 days ago, but Sandy Lyle did just that as he basked in the idyllic surroundings here yesterday bearing the wound where a growth was recently removed.

Even when you happen to be standing in heaven it cannot be easy to dismiss a cancer scare that happened just 10 days ago, but Sandy Lyle did just that as he basked in the idyllic surroundings here yesterday bearing the wound where a growth was recently removed.

Lyle does not do fear, especially at Augusta, as anyone who remembers his nerveless seven-iron that won him the 1988 Masters from that 18th bunker will testify. And it was going to take something a lot more serious to make him withdraw from his 24th Masters than an abscess on the inside of his left elbow that was later discovered to be a mild form of cancer.

"It's very low-key," insisted the 47-year-old as he prepared for a practice round with his fellow Scot Stuart Wilson, the young amateur champion. "It was just an abscess that could have led to a skin cancer thingy." The eyes of his caddie, Eric Rogers, told a different story, however. "It was quite frightening, to be honest," said the American, who recently married Fanny Sunesson, Nick Faldo's former bag-carrier who is working for Ian Poulter here this week.

"The operation only took 20 minutes," Lyle said, "but then I did only have the seven stitches out five days ago. It's in a very awkward spot and things were dependent on how it healed." Thankfully, Lyle believes it has healed well enough to take his place. But he refused to acknowledge it was connected with the regular exposure to sunlight that has led to other professionals such as Steve Elkington needing operations to remove melanomas. "I will need to have it seen to every year," he said. "But I wasn't worried as my neighbour is a cancer specialist and he knew what had to be done. But it's as beautiful as ever at Augusta and I'm happy to be here."

So, too, was the Irishman Padraig Harrington who arrived here on Sunday after his father, Paddy, rallied sufficiently from inoperable cancer of the oesophagus in the last fortnight to be released from a Dublin hospital.

Jesper Parnevik, meanwhile, was simply pleased that his clubs had turned up. He arrived on Sunday to play a practice round only to discover he had remembered everything except, er, his clubs. Unfortunately those quite crucial items of a golfer's equipment were still on his Orlando doorstep. So he was forced to share a set with a friend. "But it wasn't so successful," said Parnevik.

So what to do: make the trek back south, buy a similar set? No, when you have kind neighbours such as Tiger Woods you can simply make a call and they will fly them up to you. "I rang Tiger and told him what'd happened," he said. "After laughing for about 10 minutes he agreed to pick them up for me. Do I owe him one? Nah, I think I'm probably well in credit with Tiger." Indeed, he is. Tiger's bride, Elin, was working as a nanny for Parnevik when the Swede introduced them at the 2001 Open. One good turn deserves another.

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