On the day the European Tour stopped short of publicly reprimanding Sandy Lyle for accusing their Ryder Cup captain of cheating, one of the leading names in the game warned Colin Montgomerie of the "stigma" that shall always follow him.
"In golf, if you get a reputation for being a bit shady, fellow pros talk," said the veteran BBC commentator Peter Alliss. "The stigma stays with you... In Jakarta [at the 2005 Indonesia Open] it would appear the ball didn't go back in the place that he [Montgomerie] left it. It was fairly obvious. But he would know. Montgomerie would know and he has to live with that... If one of the press boys are in the mood, the incident will be brought up."
Alliss's remarks came in the wake of the interview in Tuesday's Independent in which Lyle compared the Montgomerie situation with the criticism he had received for walking off after nine holes of last year's Open. Lyle came across as bitter about the insinuation that the Birkdale withdrawal affected his chances of becoming captain for next year's match in Newport. Later on Tuesday, the 51-year-old came into the media centre apparently with the intent of apologising to his fellow Scot. But after reading out a contrite statement, Lyle then substantiated the claims he had made in this newspaper.
"The problem was the drop [in Jakarta, after a weather delay] wasn't close to where it should have been," he said. "And, of course, the TV doesn't lie."
Yesterday, Montgomerie accused Lyle of taking his frustrations out on him. "I've had time to digest it and I've decided to say nothing," said the 46-year-old, when arriving at the course. "I've come here to play golf and been hit with this. Just because he's disappointed not to be made captain, please don't take it out on me."
Montgomerie said he was aware that the Tour was issuing a statement, although whether he was satisfied with its content is not known. While George O'Grady, the European Tour's chief executive, said he "deeply regrets" Lyle's comments, there was no mention of the two-time major winner being fined or even spoken to.
The Tour is renowned for not publicising its sanctions, although the fact it was not even prepared to announce extending a warning as to Lyle's future conduct may just be a sign of their trepidation in dealing with such a sensitive issue. Lyle has revealed he did not expect any punishment or censure. "Whatever I've said it's not been pre-fabricated [sic]," he said. "If the Tour take any action I'd be surprised."
The pair were both on the range yesterday but have yet to talk. Monty's mood suggested they will not be doing so in the foreseeable future. Their spat has cast controversy over the build-up to today's first round, as Peter Dawson all but acknowledged yesterday. "It's a great shame when professional players like that get into those arguments," said the chief executive of the Royal and Ancient, the Open's governing body. "I very much hope it will be sorted out as soon as possible."