The 37-year-old Scot won the Masters in 1988, three years after taking the Open at Sandwich. Yet since his second major success, his form has been erratic, while Nick Faldo, Jose-Maria Olazabal, Bernhard Langer, Seve Ballesteros and Ian Woosnam, once his greatest rivals, have continued to be successful.
Lyle, however, refuses to be worried. "I've never had such a long rest before," he said. "I would have begun a little earlier, but my wife gave birth to a baby son five weeks ago and that delayed my return.
"I've been practising hard at home in Scotland with a club about five times heavier than usual to make me swing slowly and stretch my muscles. And I have just played round the course here and shot four birdies, so it wasn't too bad."
He intends to play this tournament and another in Spain next week, and then go to the United States for three or four tournaments before the Masters.
He is reticient when it comes to discussing the Ryder Cup. An automatic choice from 1979 to 1987, he asked to be left out of the 1989 team because of lack of form, and did not qualify for either the 1991 or 1993 team. This year's match is in September, but Lyle says: "These are early days to talk about the Cup. I shall definitely play if I can win my place. I don't know yet what sort of year I'm going to have, but I intend to enjoy it."
Valencia has not attracted any of the biggest names, but the field includes 20 former or present Ryder Cup players, with six of the 1993 team in contention.Reuse content