Sandy Lyle: 'Monty cheated, yet I get all the abuse'

In an outspoken interview, the former Open winner Sandy Lyle tells James Corrigan why Colin Montgomerie should not be a Ryder Cup captain
Click to follow

Sandy Lyle seems determined to cause controversy at the Open nowadays. A year after walking off after just nine holes with "cold hands", the former champion has launched an astonishing attack on Colin Montgomerie. In an interview with The Independent, Lyle has accused his fellow Scot of "cheating" and questioned whether it should have worked against him in his recent appointment as Ryder Cup captain.

Many will regard Lyle's blast as little more than the sour grapes of a forgotten champion once more overlooked to lead Europe. But there is no doubt "Jakartagate" – as the rules violation from four years ago is known – continues to command air-time in the locker rooms. After being named as Sir Nick Faldo's successor in Dubai in January, Montgomerie expressed the belief that this dark chapter in his career was finally at a close. Lyle has just ascribed that "wishful thinking" status.

When asked whether he believed his decision to sacrifice a precious Open berth so early into the first round at Birkdale last year had affected his own captaincy chances, Lyle replied: "You would have to ask the committee that. But you've got Monty with his situation where he was dropping the ball badly overseas. And that is far worse than someone pulling out because he has got sore knuckles. It's a form of what [could be called] 'cheating'. If that was going to go against Monty you would think: 'Yeah, that's a case where he is breaking the rules'. There have been a few times where he has been called in to see the videos."

The incident to which Lyle was directly referring occurred at the Indonesia Open in 2005 when, after a weather break, Montgomerie was shown on camera replacing his ball in a blatantly more advantageous position. He escaped penalty in the tournament, but such was the outrage among his peers he felt compelled to donate the £24,000 he won to charity.

Yet still the affair would not die and Monty was dressed down in Tour meetings and by at least one fellow professional in the media. It was to be a long time before he would receive widespread forgiveness. However, the 46-year-old seemed to have finally done so when the 15-strong players' committee convinced him to take on the biggest job in European golf four years earlier than he had planned.

What made it particularly awkward for Montgomerie was the fact he had been exceedingly vocal in support of Lyle's candidacy. The 1985 Open winner is the only member of Europe's so-called "Big Five" not to have captained the Ryder Cup team and Monty spoke strenuously on his behalf. Little wonder, therefore, that Lyle felt so baffled when his efforts to contact his one-time campaign leader went unanswered. "I rang him a few times straight after the decision but didn't get a reply," he said. "Eventually I got a letter, but I had the impression that was written by [his manager] Guy Kinnings."

So Lyle had to discover from elsewhere why the committee was so desperate for a younger man. And he plainly finds unsatisfactory the explanation that a pro who still regularly performs on the European Tour would be "more in touch" with his players. In fact, as far as Montgomerie is concerned, Lyle takes this to verge on the comical.

"You never see him!" Lyle said. "He disappears. Playing on the regular tour he isn't around much. You might see him half an hour before a round. He is a bit aloof. And this age factor thing is a load of crap. You have got [Paul] Azinger, at the last Ryder Cup his two vice-captains were Raymond Floyd and Dave Stockton who are both in their late sixties. They got on great with the team because they were respected. It is all about respect in the end and how good a character you are to control and to be a leader."

The 51-year-old accepts he will never be able to prove he has these qualities. "What else can I do?" said Lyle, who still maintains he would be a vice-captain in Newport in the highly unlikely event of Montgomerie now calling. "It's not going to happen. They are not going to say, 'We feel sorry for you'. There is a slight unfairness about it. I was due, definitely. I have whatever qualities you need to be a captain. I have been a deputy vice-captain, so know what goes on and what's needed. What else did they want me to do?"

It is a question Lyle is fated always to ponder. He will also surely think back to his "enough is enough" decision on the 10th tee last year and speculate whether that was the moment his chance was finally extinguished. "They [the committee] might say the decision between me and Monty came down to what happened at that Open, I don't know," Lyle said. "But the injury I had there was genuine and the abuse I received was uncalled for. When I teed off the weather was extreme and I was just saving myself from getting into further injury because my hand was virtually going numb.

"I'd had an annoying injury in my knuckles over the last two years. The swing was causing a jamming effect on my nerves and it got worse when I hit bad shots. Some of the caddies who had caddied for me over the last couple of years would testify I had been putting plasters on my hands to try to avoid the shock situation."

The biggest shock, however, came the next day when he opened the newspapers and found himself plastered all over the back pages like Public Enemy No 1. One national carried four stories on his withdrawal. It was all enough to reduce his two sisters to tears. "You look at it and you think this is getting out of hand," recalled Lyle. "I had to speak to Peter Dawson [the Royal and Ancient chief executive] and apologise if I caused an eruption. It is not like I was a main contender. As far as he was concerned I hadn't made up some fairy-tale story. But you take it on the nose and just get on with it. Although I would still take the same decision to walk off again. Without a doubt."

Open tee times: First and second round

(Turnberry, Thursday and Friday starting times; GB & Irl unless stated).

06.30 & 11.41 M Campbell (NZ), P Broadhurst, M Calcavecchia (US)

06.41 & 11.52 J Overton (US), P Larrazabal (Sp), G Orr

06.52 & 12.03 A Wall, R Sabbatini (SA), J M Singh (India)

07.03 & 12.14 N Watney (US), G Storm, C Schwartzel (SA)

07.14 & 12.25 R Echenique (Arg), R Finch, M O'Meara (US)

07.25 & 12.36 N Dougherty, D Duval (US), A Scott (Aus)

07.36 & 12.47 K Perry (US), G Norman (Aus), O Wilson

07.47 & 12.58 H Stenson (Swe), S Stricker (US), W-C Liang (China)

07.58 & 13.09 T Watson (US), S Garcia (Sp), M Manassero* (It)

08.09 & 13.20 P Hanson (Swe), D Johnson (US), L Oosthuizen (SA)

08.20 & 13.31 V Singh (Fiji), B Watson (US), G McDowell

08.31 & 13.42 C Villegas (Col), Y Ikeda (Japan), S O'Hair (US)

08.42 & 13.53 A Yano (Japan), L Donald, D Clarke

08.58 & 14.09 J Leonard (US), R Allenby (Aus), A Hansen (Den)

09.09 & 14.20 T Woods (US), L Westwood, R Ishikawa (Japan)

09.20 & 14.31 R Green (Aus), C Campbell (US), G Fernandez-Castaño (Sp)

09.31 & 14.42 D Howell, S Cink (US), T Jaidee (Thai)

09.42 & 14.53 R Jacquelin (Fr), K Duke (US), M Goggin (Aus)

09.53 & 15.04 B Baird (US), M Brown (NZ), J Edfors (Swe)

10.04 & 15.15 D J Trahan (US), P Marksaeng (Thai), M Brier (Aut)

10.15 & 15.26 C Wood, B Weekley (US), R Pampling (Aus)

10.26 & 15.37 J Ahlers (SA), B Molder (US), R Ramsay

10.37 & 15.48 B Mayfair (US), M Cayeux (Zim), L Saltman

10.48 & 15.59 R Rock, M Laird, B Crane (US)

10.59 & 16.10 B Grace (SA), T Haylock, B Snedeker (US)

11.10 & 16.21 M Wright (Aus), D Wardrop, P Ellebye (Den)

11.41 & 06.30 T Stewart (Aus), D McGrane, M Kuchar (US)

11.52 & 06.41 D Higgins, J Kavanagh, D Gaunt (Aus)

12.03 & 06.52 G Bhullar (India), R Davies, J Driscoll (US)

12.14 & 07.03 A Quiros (Sp), S Lyle, S Marino (US)

12.25 & 07.14 N Faldo, S Kjeldsen (Den), B Gay (US)

12.36 & 07.25 B Curtis (US), M Weir (Can), R Fisher

12.47 & 07.36 S Ames (Can), T Clark (SA), C Howell III (US)

12.58 & 07.47 E Els (SA), L Glover (US), M Kaymer (Ger)

13.09 & 07.58 J Rose, H Mahan (US), A Romero (Arg)

13.20 & 08.09 C Montgomerie, Z Johnson (US), KJ Choi (Kor)

13.31 & 08.20 R McIlroy, A Kim (US), R Goosen (SA)

13.42 & 08.31 T Hamilton (US), S Hansen (Den), T Kondo (Japan)

13.53 & 08.42 I Poulter, J B Holmes (US), M A Jimenez (Sp)

14.09 & 08.58 P Casey, R Imada (Japan), A Cabrera (Arg)

14.20 & 09.09 P Harrington, J Furyk (US), G Ogilvy (Aus)

14.31 & 09.20 P Lawrie, D Love III (US), S Appleby (Aus)

14.42 & 09.31 P McGinley, C Pettersson (Swe), J Daly (US)

14.53 & 09.42 S Gross* (Ger), D Toms (US), T Lehman (US)

15.04 & 09.53 J Kingston (SA), C Hoffman (US), F Jacobson (Swe)

15.15 & 10.04 P Goydos (US), F Molinari (It), R Sterne (SA)

15.26 & 10.15 T Levet (Fr), RS Johnson (Swe), K Sutherland (US)

15.37 & 10.26 T Aiken (SA), P Hedblom (Swe), P Baker

15.48 & 10.37 F A Hed (Swe), J Geary (NZ), D Drysdale

15.59 & 10.48 K Kuboya (Japan), B Vaughan (US), E Saltman

16.10 & 10.59 T Wood (Aus), D Smail (NZ), O Fisher

16.21 & 11.10 T Pilkadaris (Aus), S Surry, K Oda (Japan)

*Denotes amateur