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How 'the fifth major' won the heart of Sandy Lyle

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Iain Carter | 09:00 UK time, Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Twenty-five years ago Sandy Lyle became the first overseas winner of the Players' Championship, the tournament that carries most prestige outside the four majors.

The Scot broke an American stranglehold on the PGA Tour's flagship event and that grip has completely disintegrated in recent years. Twelve months ago, Korea's KJ Choi became the event's fourth successive non-US winner.

In the past decade only Davis Love III, Phil Mickelson and Fred Funk have provided cause for the Stars and Stripes flag to be raised over the Tour's Sawgrass headquarters, where play in the 2012 tournament begins on Thursday.

Lyle's stunning victory in the tournament, which back in 1987 was still called the Tournament Players' Championship, carried huge significance as it offered proof that non-Americans could prosper in Uncle Sam's backyard.

And no-one was more surprised than the champion himself.

"I often look at a poster that I still have on a wall at home with my winning score of 14 under par on it and wonder how the hell I get around that course in that score," Lyle admitted.

"I was amazed because I couldn't see how that layout could suit my game. It is just relentless and by that I mean relentless trouble, with water everywhere."

Sandy Lyle won the Open Championship in 1985 and Masters in 1988. Photo: Getty

Lyle won his title by beating Jeff Sluman at the third extra hole of a play-off.

After halving the par-five 16th, the diminutive American had a chance from five feet to secure victory on the famous island green 17th. But Sluman's concentration was broken as he settled over his putt when a drunken fan dived into the water and his chance disappeared amid the ensuing commotion.

The play-off moved on to the 18th where Lyle, the 1985 Open and 1988 Masters champion, endured one of the most nerve-wracking moments of his career.

"People always think that bunker shot at the 72nd hole at Augusta was my toughest moment," Lyle told me. "But the one that really gave me the heebie-jeebies was the third extra hole to win the Players.

"It was the 18th with all that water down the left and it was pitch dark. I could hardly see the green - it was hard enough to make out the ball at my feet and I had no depth perception.

"There was so much riding on it, with so much money at stake and a 10-year exemption on the PGA Tour."

Somehow his 190-yard five iron found the edge of the green and Lyle was able to make the par that allowed him to bank a $180,000 (£110,000) first prize and acquire playing privileges that allowed him to compete on both sides of the Atlantic.

That golfing dual nationality was then a rare opportunity and it was the exploits in those times of the likes of Lyle, Sir Nick Faldo, Greg Norman and Seve Ballesteros that paved the way for today's plethora of US-based overseas stars.

And it was only right that Lyle's place at the heart of the generation that inspired this shift was recognised by his induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame on Monday.

"To have the standard of my golf when I was at my best recognised in this way is by far the most important thing," he said.

"I know that those who vote for the Hall of Fame are scattered all over the world so it's a big boost to your confidence. I'd been on the shortlist for a few years and, like the Ryder Cup captaincy that didn't happen, I thought I might have been overlooked.

"This recognition should help hugely with getting into Champions Tour events. I'll have a lot better chance of exemptions, it's a bit like when you get a gold credit card."

Lyle added: "I expect to play more US events, but I will be back in Britain for the Scottish Open, Open and Seniors Open in the summer."

In the meantime, he will be an interested spectator this week as Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy lead the charge to become the first UK golfers to emulate Lyle's 1987 Sawgrass triumph.

"It was my biggest win by a long way outside my majors - and I had a lot of good wins. I particularly remember beating Fred Couples in a play-off at the Phoenix Open when all the support was for him and he was up against little old me," Lyle recalled.

"Somehow I managed to pull it off."

In those days, UK wins on the PGA Tour were scarce but now thanks to Donald, McIlroy, Westwood and Justin Rose they are much more commonplace.

Of that quartet only McIlroy has a major victory and, were any of them to celebrate winning this week, they would have the next best thing to their name.

Some call The Players' "the fifth major" and Lyle has sympathy with the argument.

"When I was asked in my press conference after I won what was the difference between the Players' and the majors, I instantly said 125 years," he said.

"But there's no reason now why it shouldn't be thought of as a major. All the top players are there - it's getting its history and it's on the same tough golf course every year.

"Of course past champions like me or a Tom Kite would want to call it a major, but it's not for us to say," he added.

And that sums up Sandy Lyle. He may now be a Hall of Famer but he remains as self-effacing as ever.

His pioneering win of 25 years ago, though, should not be forgotten - particularly this week and especially if the run of overseas champions continues.


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  • Comment number 1.


  • Comment number 2.

    Nice blog Iain, I am personally a Snady Lyle fan. I thought it was disgraceful how he was overlooked for the Ryder Cup captaincy over people like Mark James, just because he didn't put himself out there like other show-ponies he was ignored.

  • Comment number 3.

    @1 Lv Daveyboy wont be very happy :-(

  • Comment number 4.

    Lyle may have broken the US stranglehold on the Players, but by 1987 the European invasion was well and truly underway, courtesy of Seve, Langer etc at the Masters.

    Sandy Lyle was a class act though. Every bit as talented as his great rival Faldo, the only thing separating them perhaps being Faldo's superior mental strength/toughness.

    With the WGC events now, can the Players still be referred to as the 5th major? In recent years we've seen some big-name players skip this event. Surely the fields at the WGC events are just as strong now, at least in terms of the top 50 being there.

  • Comment number 5.

    Iain another good blog,and nice of you to remember some of the older guys !!!!.

    It seems strange with the amount of talent in Britian/Ireland in the last 25 years that nobody else has won,but surely this is the year and "our Lee" will go onto bigger and better things after walking away with a cheque for a cool $1,710,000 and leaving everyone in his path.

    I wonder would he, or any of our top boys like to sponsor the "Iain Carter Blog golf Day".
    Mr Carter I will let you get in contact with them and look forward to you posting the time/date and venue for this inaugural event and look forward to a great day out.

  • Comment number 6.

    But isn't this to be expected? When Sandy Lyle won, how many non-US players were on the Tour? And now?

  • Comment number 7.

    Yes - hats off Sandy.

    I have a hunch for Westwood this week. Sorry Lee.

  • Comment number 8.

    Awesome sandy lee!!! Anyway i won't suprise

  • Comment number 9.

    I dont remember Sandy winning the Players,i do like everyone else remember him winning the Masters....thats cus its a Major i guess.
    I always liked Sandy,he played the game quite naturally and came across as a normal guy.
    I would be playing now but my little girl is off school sick so im stuck at home when i could be playing my first game since last gutted!!!!!

  • Comment number 10.

    @8 yvjags

    Is your post a conundrum?

  • Comment number 11.

    Manina no worries on the course 7 holes down sun shining life could not get much better missed the hat trick but happy with a double will read the blog and comment later a 9 iron approach is waiting

  • Comment number 12.

    I am sure I read a quote a few years ago from Seve that when he, Lyle, Faldo, and Langer were all playing to the absolute best, Sandy was the best of the lot !! I guess what we can read into that is that whilst Sandy was capable of stunning golf, he was ultimately less consistent - and less likely to play to his absolute best - than the others. But a very interesting comment nonetheless. Like others, I had no idea that Sandy has won the Players at Sawgrass - so he has won two-and-a-half majors, then !!!

  • Comment number 13.

    Interesting blog Iain - I enjoy the "spanners in the works" blogs that dont necessarily concentrate of the previous weeks play

    Sandy was a gent and a genius and no doubt the only reason for him not being RC captain was because he walked off the course a few years ago

    If and when McGinley gets it we will all know Sandy's time has passed onto a new generation of potential captains - such a shame

    If you think about the "foreign" invasion of Europeamn golfers back then: Faldo, Lyle, Langer, Seve, Olly, Monty (a bit later), Woosie, WOWZA!!

  • Comment number 14.

    Calling McIlroy a UK golfer is like calling Stephen Ferris a UK rugby player.

  • Comment number 15.

    #14 - get a life sunshine.

  • Comment number 16.

    "Twenty-five years ago Sandy Lyle became the first overseas winner of the Players' Championship, the tournament that carries most prestige outside the four majors."

    Good blog Iain and maybe, back in the day, this was hyped to be the most prestigous tournament outside the majors but no longer, methinks. We now have the WGC events which may have reduced fields but certainly better fields. The Players' was big because the American tour was big and they had the monopoly on the big money but that is no longer the case. An event which excluded so many surely has to be questioned?

    As far as Snady Lyle (#2 Lord V!) is concerned I remember being on holiday in Bournmouth and watching him winning the open. A great golfer who is definitely a pathfinder for many today but I do wish he'd ease up on the public displays around his personal disappointments. Yes, maybe he could have been picked for the RC captaincy ahead of such 'stars' as Mark James but keeping silent is much more dignified and would have suited his cause better.

  • Comment number 17.

    14 - rather a pointless post. Northern Ireland is part of the UK. What's your point.

    #15 however is a good post!

    Davey - thought phones were banned on the golf course? How did the 9 iron go? Hope you made your triple!

  • Comment number 18.

    @ 17 I think you misunderstand - davey was referring to a hat-trick of getting the first comment, which I gleefully robbed him of this week!

    @ 16 very easy in hindsight to say that he should've kept silent, not sure it would've made much difference.

    Lyle obviously had lots of other competitors for the RC captaincy, because his generation was so good. You could say that there just wasn't enough space.

    If I could re-do it I´d have had Woosnam and Lyle 2006 & 2008, whichever order, and then Faldo 2010, Ollie 2012 and Monty 2014.

    The question is who will do it in 2014, Harrington maybe? Or a repeat of a past captain. Given that it's in Scotland everyone thought Monty was nailed on for it, but who knows, maybe he'll be given it again.

  • Comment number 19.

    See Lee Westwood done his way back and then shoot a great round when it doesnt matter and there is no pressure.
    It will be very interesting to hear John Hawksworths thoughts later.

  • Comment number 20.

    Hawksworth had about 220 Yards to the green and he was on a tight lie on a downward slope, the ball was about 8 inches below his feet. he was hitting directly into the wind. it was a very stiff breeze, about 30mph i'd say. Hawksworth played a low punched 3 iron that pierced the wind and flew straight and true and finished about 2 foot from the pin. Without doubt the best shot in the world ever.

  • Comment number 21.

    Don't see why if next RC is in Scotland that they cannot then give it to Sandy??

  • Comment number 22.

    I can see why some people put WGC's ahead of the Players' but for me it is definitely the next biggest event outside the majors. The Players' always has stronger deeper fields than the WGC's and it has built a significant history. It also benefits from being on the same course each year, one that identifies a broad range of champions. Given the choice, would a golfer prefer to win a Players' or a WGC? I think they'd take the Players', after all they get four goes a year at the WGC's. Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood both realise they made mistakes by not going to Sawgrass last year.
    One other point, relating to last week's blog. Fair play to McIlroy; that was an amazing return to action to make the play-off at Quail Hollow. Also when you saw the ebullient personalities of Rors, Fowler and DA Points at the sharp end of the tournament, it put to rest the contention that top golf is largely played by faceless robots.

  • Comment number 23.

    I think Sandy's time to be RC Captain has passed. Many other deserving candidates in the mix now. I do think it is disgraceful that he never had the opportunity though.

  • Comment number 24.

    My favourite golfer who doesn't get the respect and recognition he so richly deserves. Total gentleman who always has time for the punter and remembers who pays his wages. TPC victory was a huge achievement.

    A star.

  • Comment number 25.

    Don't really think that the Ryder Cup captaincy should be treated like an MBE - for services to golf etc. Shouldn't it be just "the best man for the job"? Apart from anything else, Europe now have so many good players and as the RC only comes around every two years, many more candidates are going to feel overlooked in the years to come.

  • Comment number 26.

    Agree with Trev... as much as I like Sandy and what he achieved he does need to let a few of his 'issues' drop. That said he was a great player and certainly did blaze a trail for the Europenas to come. I'm not too hung up on who captains the RC team... the nucleus of the team playing to their full potential is far more relevant to the eventual outcome that the captain's input IMHO. You could argue that Faldo has been the poorest captain of late yet picking Poulter proved to be spot on... and no doubt cranked up the quality of the 'uniforms' a notch to boot!

    I don't envisage The Players ever being a major. Once there's FIVE majors someone will inevitably appoint themselves the 'unofficial sixth major' and so the process begins again. Majors 'records' become devalued etc etc. It's better to invent a different format (WGCs) and start the clock again!

  • Comment number 27.

    # 25

    then how on earth did nick faldo get the job??

    one of the greatest englishmen to swing a golf club yes.

    motivator of people and team player?? no.

    For RC I think treat it as an MBE - reward all these past european greats for their time and efforts in our great game - at the end of the day its the players who win/lose I can't imagine the captain's speech having much of an input (with the exception perhaps of Seve's recorded speech)

  • Comment number 28.

    I have always been a Sandy fan, always did things his way and unfortunately got led up a bit of a garden path trying to correct something that wasn't broken. Sometimes natural talent should rule..............note Sergio and Westwood have both been down that path and back doing it the way they know how!

    Glad he is getting the recognition he deserves, even if it is in the US.

    Still a great ball striker and boy could he hit a 1 iron, I have a vague recollection of Lyle beating Faldo in the Brabazon many moons ago and Lyle kept hitting a 1 iron past Faldo!

  • Comment number 29.

    Why does this discussion of a fifth major keep coming up?
    The majors are the majors
    The Players is the Players
    It is what it is
    There are lots of other big(ger?) important tournaments

    Sandy Lyle was the most brilliant player at his best
    Still the best ever in full waterproofs in a squall
    Shame he didn't achieve more but many would envy his record

    RC captaincy is not about just being good at golf and has always required good people skills and motivational ability
    To illustrate: Paul McGinley (a golfing Martin O'Neill) vs Nick Faldo (not)
    I know who I would rather play for

  • Comment number 30.

    I don't understand why it is too late for Sandy and the RC. He has to be a top candidate, especially for Scotland.
    His Masters win from the sand is iconic.
    No body hit a 2-iron as far as Sandy, quite prodigious.
    Not a fan of Hall Of Fames, but so happy he is now an inductee.

  • Comment number 31.

    #28 - ah the long irons! Happy I don't have to carry them, but I wish the pros had to more often than 'rescue' clubs.

  • Comment number 32.

    I think we are forgetting one pertinent point. Golf has opened up (beyond the stereotypical, white middle-class game). This has allowed us to watch the talents of RM, TW and more. That, to me, is the biggest difference, comparing 1985 and 2012.

    P.S. I wonder if Augusta will ever open up membership to women???

  • Comment number 33.

    Different people will have a different perspective of Sandy Lyle, So far it is all glowing praise. I'm afraid i cannot match that.

    Of the "Golden Generation" of Europeans that included the likes of Faldo, Seve, Woosie, Langer etc, Sandy Lyle was, to my generation the most anonymous. I didnt see him win either of his 2 majors, never saw him play a Ryder Cup. His powers diminished bafore the others and therefore i cannot be effusive in my praise as others have been

    Perhaps the fact that he lost his form eariler than the Faldos and the Langers is the reason he hasnt received the recognition others feel he deserved, personally I know his record, I know his 2nd to 18 at Augusta and his silly little dance. And sadly i know of the odd rather bitter sounding interview. But i dont know the great golfer behind all of that.

  • Comment number 34.

    It should not be recognised as a 5th major. There are already enough Major's in the US.

    Clearly these events have grown up over a number of years and 4 are considered major's while others aren't (regardless of where they are, or the money / ranking points at stake).

    Golf is a global game (arguably only 2nd to Football in terms of the number of countries it is played in) and there must be a greater reach from the sports upper echelons.

    Australia & SA has a large group of top players, but most of their pros play in America or Europe. We will see larger number of Korean, Japanese and Chinese players in the rankings - but again they are forced to play in America for the main prize money.

    As the blog states, 25 years ago it was a top story to see a European winning in America. There are hundreds of top pro's from Europe in that generation who never really got a shot at winning a major because 3 quarters of them were in America, while dozens of relatively mediocre Americans claimed a major without ever needing a passport.

    Let's have some top down thinking here. Have a major in Australia or SA at the start of the year. Then the Masters in America (they don't have to hold it at Augusta, they can move it around), the Open in the summer, perhaps a European major in Aug / Sept, then one in Asia in November.

    Create a real international schedule that players can play all year and take breaks when they want to, not one suited to the American golf season (and Americans) from March to September.

    Lets be honest a lot of these decisions are taken by stuffy old men in blazers who are only interested in protecting their own events and own traditions. And while golf does have events with great traditions, it is clearly not fair on the majority of non-American's who now play and contribute to the sport.

  • Comment number 35.

    My goodness #32 - GB you actually said something purposeful for once!

  • Comment number 36.

    #33 Jimmy

    That's outrageous - In terms of British rather than Europeans he was a trailblazer. He was the first British player to win the Masters and the first to win The Open since Jacklin. And I come from Faldo country!

    Incidentally, I always found it quite amusing that as youth golfers Lyle (Scottish) and Woosnam (Welsh) were big rivals playing in Shropshire ... which, last time I was there (yesterday actually), is in England. How does that work out?

  • Comment number 37.

    #18 - No, I did understand. I think you misunderstood me - although I can see why. I know Davey has been 'the first and last' recently, and prides himself on his 'first on the bog' reputation. But my reference to triple was not to do with that particular hat trick of first posts. It was a pure co-incidence. I was merely referring to the triple bogey (or worse) that he will undoubtedly make from about 130 yards from the green. We'll probably find that he birdied it now, and his 9 iron will go down as 'the shot heard around the bog'!

  • Comment number 38.

    Sandy deserves this, think biggest compliment i have ever heard about Sandy came from Seve, he said if all the top players at the time all brought there A game to a tournament Sandy would win, no higher praise than that from a player i considered the greatest.

  • Comment number 39.

    People forget what a good player Sandy was in those days. To have 'only' won two majors at a time when the likes of Faldo, Ballesteros, Norman and Watson were at their peak is no small achievement. Congrats on your recognition, at last!

  • Comment number 40.

    good to have a blog about Sandy Lyle. mickysausage has been talking about him on here for years....makes me wonder does he work for BBC? is he Iain Carter? he does seem to go to a lot of sports events!

  • Comment number 41.

    861 - What specifically do you disagree with? It may not be agreeable to Lyle fans but golfers of my of my age did not see him playing at him best. By the time people of my age started watching golf he wasnt a prominent contender when most of his peers still were. You have clearly misunderstood the entire gist of my post

    You older people can sit around scratching your heads as to why Sandy Lyle hasnt got the recognition he apparently deserved. Well I'm offering you a potential reason for it.

  • Comment number 42.

    I don't think Sandy Lyle could handle the role of RC captain . He's become increasingly erratic with his comments and criticisms ( vs Monty for example) . He seems to be constantly on the edge of explosion - and no captain can lead that way . All rather sad.

  • Comment number 43.

    Jimmy, I know where you're coming from, but it's not your generation that has "snubbed" Lyle, or at least not given him the recognition he deserved. It's the committees of the European Tour who haven't given him the RC captaincy.

    I think in recent appointments that they have stated that someone closer to the players (as in still/recently playing with them) will always be captain in future, which effectively rules Lyle out now. It's a pity but there were so many good players of that era that someone was likely to lose out. Similarly, there's so many top European players at the moment that I just can't see them all having a shot at the captaincy.

  • Comment number 44.

    Good stuff, Iain,
    Twelve golfers and counting are sitting this week's "Players" out; don't think that would happen for a US-based Major, or a US-based WGC. Fifth Major it certainly is not.
    Sandy is wrong in one thing and I'm surprised you let him get away with it:
    This HOF recognition may help Lyle get into one or two Champions Tour events, but the fact is that the Champions Tour is the most closed of closed shops and Sandy played poorly when he had some exemption. He doesn't attend Q-School and would merely be invited based on past glories, not unlike Daly.
    Neither has done anything, or played well enough, to warrant responsible sponsors to invite them in favour of golfers who have earned their way into the field.

  • Comment number 45.

    Make Darren Clarke captain he aint gonna be playing in it again this year with his form

  • Comment number 46.

    33 Jimmy - do you remember his brown outfit and sweaty armpits??? You are right that he lost his form very suddenly and never got it back. Faldo did something rather similar but nearly 10 years and 6 majors later. Yes he was a trailblazer but his very sudden loss of form almost certainly tarnished his legacy. I think I am right in saying that he was going to withdraw from the 89 Ryder Cup but in the end didn't qualify? Can't remember exactly but I'm sure there was talk of him withdrawing even if he qualified, such was the dip in his form.

  • Comment number 47.

    BMG for your info the said 9 iron came up short as took an almighty divot thanks to the sodden course ( good excuse) But made bogey so no triple.

    Ian Good blog on the forgotten man of eighties Euro golf, His peers I believe envied his swing which was silky smooth. Correct me if I am wrong but I believe he did a Padraig and messed around with his swing and the wheels fell off hence he kinda fell off the scene.
    Manina just for you IAN any news on the golf day ????? you know it willhaunt you if it does not happen.
    The players attracts a top field but if there was to be a fith major I thing it should go east anywhere other than the states, they already have 3 and the lions share of WGC events.
    DON looking forward to your selection of next Brit/ Englishman to win a major.

  • Comment number 48.

    The Fifth Major is surely going to happen later in the year - the "Golf Bloggers Bash by Iain Carter"

  • Comment number 49.

    davey - Don247 will currently be penning a lengthy piece about how the World no.1 blew another tournament, citing inability to cope under pressure, poor caddie and all-round poor life choices.

    All constructively, of course.

  • Comment number 50.

    Couple of points about Sandy.

    From memory his decline started just after his marriage break up. Unfortunately once he lost his magic it was impossible for him to regain it. Too much thought for such a natural golfer was a disaster and the result was a paltry return of 2 majors for a golfer that deserved many more.

    Great players do not necessarily make great leaders and even as a huge Lyle fan I am not so sure I would like to see him as RC captain. To my mind there are better leaders coming through who could manage and inspire this new generation of players.

    Finally, Lyle came third in the Sports Personality of the Year in 1988, the year of him being the first player from the UK to win the Masters with one of the shots of the century. I have always thought this was one of the great travesty's, no disrespect to either Steve Davis or Adrian Moorehouse who beat him but Nick Faldo won the SPOTY the next year having been the second UK player to win the Open in the past 20 years and the second UK player to win the Masters.

    Sandy was the first in both cases but he wasn't English.

  • Comment number 51.

    Through a haze of bad haircuts/knitwear/music in the 80s, do I remember it was actually Sandy's eyesight that gave him trouble and started the downturn? Seem to remember him messing around between glasses/lens but that was likely into the 90s. Am sure as many have said it was a swing issue first and foremost.

  • Comment number 52.

    As a teenager I followed Sandy Lyle closer than any other golfer of the day. After taking on the world in 1988 (sitting top of the US money list for most of that year) he went out like a light in the Spring of 1989. It was as sudden as that. A good few finishes to start that year but then a collapse into missed cuts. The rest of the European "big 5" went on long into the 1990s and so Sandy was left behind.

    Regrettably he's let himself down in recent years on and off the course. Being overlooked for the RCC was caused by Sandy's typical "backwards in coming forwards" attitude. Most praise his modesty but what good has being Mr. Nice Guy done him? Nick Faldo was ruthless back in the day but look where he is now.

  • Comment number 53.

    @45 I might agree with you about Clarke. I'm not a huge fan, although I don't dislike him in any way, and I can see him being a good captain in 2012. He's always spoken very highly of the RC too.

    What do other people think: Lyle, Monty or Clarke for 2014. Or A.N.Other...?

  • Comment number 54.

    *good captain in 2014 I should have said!

  • Comment number 55.

    Well done Sandy. I backed you at 33-1 to win the 1985 Open.

  • Comment number 56.

    Lord V 2012 RC captain will be between the both well respected amongst their fellow players Darren Clarke or Paul McGinley who incidently gained a lot of credence from the players in the SEVE trophy when he beat the Euro team led by Thomas Bjorn.
    Cant see any one else getting it Monty has had his turn which probably would have been Gleneagles but thats not to say that he would not get to do it again. It just seems now that its a one off and there are that many Potential captains waiting in the wings that once is your lot.

  • Comment number 57.

    Mickeysausage for RC captain, I say! (With Don as vice)

  • Comment number 58.

    Mickey is far too busy living the life of riley to spend time on that gig. And Don is too busy writing his Don Long posts that would be enough to keep most of us eternally busy lol

  • Comment number 59.

    I think to draw an analogy with lyle, micky and don247 just aren't in contact with the blog enough anymore to be able to captain the team. Bilo also has a recent arrival. I might therefore plump for the BMG or mattefc

  • Comment number 60.

    I don't understand why players with good playing credentials should expect ryder cup captaincy
    It should be decided on aptitude for the job
    They should have to prove their management skills with the seve trophy and deputy captaincy at the ryder cup
    Not sure Sandy Lyle has what it takes

    Olly Bjorn Clarke McGinley and one day Westwood and Garcia would work for me

    Presumably Tiger will eventually be offered the role for the oppo
    I expect we will win that one

  • Comment number 61.

    #41 Jimmy

    OK, point taken - I think I was outraged (not really, probably surprised) by your use of the word anonymous. Remember, us British golf fans (there wasn't much European till Seve) had been hanging around deperate for a home-grown winner of any Major since Tony Jacklin's wins in 69/70.

    After his Open win in 85 and Masters win in 88 le was probably the _least_ anonymous golfer (well British golfer) you could imagine.

    Re-reading it, I do understand your post, as his career did trail off, and if golf wasn't on your radar in the mid to late eighties I guess it's understandable.

    I'm not sure what you mean by "you older people" by the way - How old do you think I am? Anyway, I've just got to be pulled out of my bath chair so I can give the gutta-percha a good old whack with the mashie niblick!

  • Comment number 62.

    RE #60 - how did you pick those players that would 'work for you'? Did you not pick them based on their 'playing credentials'?

  • Comment number 63.

    861 - I was less than a year old when he won the open and 3 when he won the masters. I guess by older people i mean anyone who can remember either event 1st hand

    Incidentally his relative anonymity to people of my age might be due to the media.
    I'm not one to blow raspberries a tthe BBC who do a generally excellent job in my opinion but 2010 was the 25th anniversary of his open win, 2011 was a return to the venue where he won his open. Both would have provided an opportunity for the BBC to do a some kind of feature on his win. Whilst i didnt watch every second of the coverage i dont believe they did. All he gets is a quick word in the studio at Augusta after he has played his 2nd round.

    P.S. I did make it clear that it was only my generation to whom he is relativly anonymous, no doubt his star shone much brighter when he was out performing at the top of the game

  • Comment number 64.


    Based on:

    1. How they come across in interviews eg Can they answer a question with any useful content. Can they respond off the cuff with confidence. Do they have any obvious leadership qualities. Do they use any eye contact. Do I believe what they are saying

    2. What I have read about the character is useful albeit second hand

    3. First hand contact at golf events. How they interact with the public such as myself

    Golfing ability gets them into the frame for consideration but should not in my view be the yardstick by which they are measured for the abilty to get the best out of a group of fellow professionals

    I accept I am giving an opinion as a fan and not as someone who knows these characters well enough to make the final decision.
    There are some however who would "work for me" and some who if they turned up for an interview at my company would not be given a job where they had to deal with other human beings such as Nick Faldo

  • Comment number 65.

    55 - a mate of mine had a double on (I think) Lyle for the Masters and Rhyme & Reason for the National which came in at a darned site better than 33-1. Jammy s0d!

    Davey - ok, so none of my wild predictions (birdie nor triple) came true, which is about normal for my predictions!

  • Comment number 66.

    Having watched golf from the U.S. avidly on TV for 30 yrs i would contend that Sawgrass should be the 4th major, rather than what is often a forgettable PGA. Just look at the winners of both over the years to see the quality needed. Sawgrass is like The Masters...set on a fabulous course, with almost miracle shots needed in the wind...truly a unique test.. and of course, the 17th is almost as much fun as Amen Corner !

  • Comment number 67.

    Jimmy - a wee prediction league update if possible? :)

  • Comment number 68.

    how am i doing in the predictions?! havent offered any for about 8 tournaments now! been too busy. I'm back in the game now though!
    who remembers mattefc's mate oldmanGriff? i noticed he has been causing trouble on football blogs! why did he not like mattefc?

  • Comment number 69.

    Gbell - Gotta do that from home. Going for a quick 9 from work but it'll be on before the day is out.

    All i'm gonna say is that I picked Molinari to win :-)

  • Comment number 70.

    #35 Gbell,

    Thanks :) That's so sweet...

  • Comment number 71.

    I don't think Sandy will ever be RC captain. I don't know enough about him to say if he has the ability to do it, but just from a practical point of view - it won't happen.

    Captains generally are guys still playing on the tour, but in their last few seasons. Langer, Woosnam, Monty, Olly etc. They know the players, will have played with them and competed against them. Probably the only recent captain who still didn't play on tour (I believe) was Faldo. Exhibit A in how not to captain a RC team.

    Obviously a captain would probably get a few invitations on the European tour during a selection year and would likely be able to play in 10 or 12 events - but really is this the ideal situation for a captain to get to know who his best 12 guys are? Especially when there are guys like Thomas Bjorn, Paul McGinley, Darren Clarke etc who have been Vice Captains and playing in the event much more recently and still play on the tour.

    I reckon Sandy is a worthwhile addition to the Hall of Fame. He did really well winning tournaments in America when trans-atlantic travel was still relatively obscure. He's also arguably the most successful Scottish golfer of the modern era (Monty with more consistency, Sandy with the big wins). Again, I don't know every detail of his feud with Monty, but the whole thing seems bizare and I would like to think that both players are well above that and most of it was over publicised by the media.

  • Comment number 72.

    Edoardo came 51st
    Bad luck you will do better this week

  • Comment number 73.

    Debate about the status of The TPC versus the Major's aside, I confess I have always had one nagging problem with the amount of respect that is given to this tournament... The absurd 17th hole.

    I have always been rather of the old school opinion that water hazards have no place on golf course. But I accept this is now a very much out-dated opinion to hold. Golf should be enjoyed by as many people who want to enjoy it, and water features have undoubtedly become part of modern courses.

    However a hole that is 90% water belong as in a theme park, where a car is the prize for the lucky punter who lands a hole in one.

    I respect any hole that suddenly ramps up the minimum requirements for accuracy compared to the rest of the course. I even like the idea of it being where it is in the order of things. The golfer crusing along, well under par can be brought squarely back down to earth when the wind is blowing. But (and this is where I really don't think I am being old-fashioned) a hole should still have SOME fairway on it!

    The 17th at Sawgrass for me is the one thing that would stop me from ever comparing this competition to a major. Golf majors are no place for novelty holes, designed to provide entertainment because of the EXPECTATION of foul water shots.

  • Comment number 74.

    Hang on
    Water hazards have no place on a golf course?
    Swilcan and Barry burns, Rae's creek, the Pacific ocean (Pebble beach)
    This is not the stuff of theme parks

  • Comment number 75.

    As a major Sandy Lyle fan I have had to endure the countless times that he has been ignored as the "breakthrough" major winner before that other man who I cant mention in case his head grows any bigger. Sandy had a completely natural style as opposed to the robotic rebuild of the other one. Sandys biggest issue was that he wasnt an exciting personality and didnt publicise himself very well.
    This was a really refreshing and long overdue homage to a humble yet great golfer.

  • Comment number 76.

    The opinion that water hazards have no place on a golf course isn't an old one - it is a ridiculous one. Links golf is 'proper golf' and golf in its original form, many links courses make brilliant use of the biggest water hazard of them all - the ocean.

  • Comment number 77.

    @69 - Did you actually look back at my pick to see that i did plump for the wrong Molinari?

    @73 I think the notion that water hazards have no place on the golf course is a little bit too strong. Divoted Golfer rightly points out some classic ones that are part of gold rich history. I do agree that the hole is micky mouse and design and subtlety has in this instance been thrown out of the window in favour of the "Wow factor" I voiced a similar criticism of the "Bear Trap".

    Still despite not liking such holes. I still find them compelling once play commences.

  • Comment number 78.

    Actually, no I didn't look I was just being flippant

  • Comment number 79.

    Hi gbell do you think Lyle had a textbook swing? How about Seve or Langer? Or Niklaus, Palmer or Trevino? Lots of majors between them. Give me some examples of textbook swings.

  • Comment number 80.

    Kwini (comment 44) - the Champions Tour is a closed shop, no doubt about that, but Hall of Fame membership gets Sandy near enough top status on that tour so he can play whenever he likes - no need for sponsors' exemptions.

  • Comment number 81.

    @76 GB....I don't think that the ocean figures in many "major" links courses. Yes a lot of the courses are near the coast but they use the contours of the land. I can only think of Pebble beach and Turnberry that actually uses the "ocean" as part of the actual course and therfore a hazard. Though feel free to point me in the direction of more.

    With ref to the 17th at Sawgrass, it is a tough test of a players knowledge of yardages and spin control. It's the same for everyone and certainly adds to the excitement near the end.

    with reference to the "actual" blog. Good to see sandy Lyle be inducted to the HOF. He was one of the European "pioneers" and was the 1st Britsh golfer to win multiple times in the good ol' U S of A. as mentioned though he was the quiet man, who slid into the doldrums and then started to feel sorry for himself.

  • Comment number 82.

    Re: Faldo's alleged lack of people skills, I happen to think that this is (unfairly) based on the media created notion of him as an egocentric, introverted, personality-less nerd. I don't think he is necessarily 'people-person of the year', just that we shouldn't judge him based on the persona created by the tabloids.

    I think the media has misaligned him, and he probably has done a couple of things that haven't helped (e.g. when he thanked the media from the heart of is bottom in his Open speech, and his god-awful rendition of My Way). Certain other pros such as Mark James openly dislike him too, and that has led to a kind of default belief that he's a prat. I don't buy it. The fact that he lost the Ryder Cup just gives the media another excuse to get on his case.

    Had Monty or Langer for instance lost the Cup, they may have been similarly lambasted. But they won (narrowly in Monty's case) and suddenly they are treated like demi-gods.

    For the record I also think that (a) Faldo was extremely sporting in defeat (maybe too much so) and (b) Azinger acted like a complete fool when he started all this 13th man rubbish. He may have well have said to the fans 'please be as loud and disruptive as possible and put them off cos we probably won't win otherwise'. I was ashamed on his behalf because golf is probably one of the few remaining sports which don't involve gamesmanship, and Azinger's attitude sucked, especially given the deplorable events of 1999.

    Rant over!

  • Comment number 83.

    77 Jimmy - what do think of the idea of introducing penalty points for people who claim to have picked a namesake of the player that they actually picked, in order to gain more points. For example, Hass (Hunter and Bill), Quiros (Alvaro, Raul, Manuel), Lawrie (Paul and Peter), Hunter (Haas and Mahan) or even Molinari. Just asking

  • Comment number 84.

    @73 Joe/@76 gbell......I'm not a fan of these peninusula/island greens, good for the on course spectators, but the amount of times good shots are not rewarded (exasperated by ridiculous pin positions!) is not fun to me.
    Gbell....You're not wrong, links golf is (IMHO) the toughest & best test in all golf.

  • Comment number 85.

    Ian. Fine blog about a great golfer whose exploits at the time undoubtedly gave a further impetus, if one was needed, to a young Faldo to go on and become the greatest European golfer of them all, at least in terms of Major victories.

    Also nice to see you come back and re-evaulate? your assessment of Rory's schedule in light of his Wells Fargo performance. As I said in response to your original blog I do not believe his schedule and consequently being 'undercooked' was the problem but rather his inability to hold a round together when playing badly.

    As to a 5th Major. Do any golf fans want it, particularly if it was in USA? I do believe The Players is viewed as such by many though and the world golf points ranking system appears to allude to it as well. Stadium course for the modern world meeting the demands for an ever expanding (read far eastern) global TV audience. The mighty $ may well win out in the end.

  • Comment number 86.

    #85 - interesting point about whether the Players or any other tournie will become the 5th major. I'm not sure who decides or how it is decided whether a tournament is a major. Does anyone have an answer to that one?

    I personally think that the 4 majors are so estalbished that it will be a long time (if ever) before a 5th is added. If it is, I think it ought to be somewhere other than the US or even Europe. Possibly Australia or Asia somewhere.

  • Comment number 87.


    What is a "textbook swing" anyway? Things change like crazy. 1 plane, 2 plane, shift weight to right on upswing, weight stay on left.

  • Comment number 88.

    Correct Golden Bear there is no such thing as a textbook swing. Its not how you swing but what you can do with your swings.

  • Comment number 89.

    #80: Surreyeagle,
    Is that right? Must admit, I've followed the Champions Tour for way too long and never realised that.
    Interesting info, Thanks for the enlightenment!
    So his only challenge, presumably, will be to maintain the necessary stroke average to sustain that exemption status?
    I bet Woosie is now lobbying hard for HOF induction!

  • Comment number 90.

    Sandys loss in form really was extraordinary as someone else mentioned earlier he went from world beater to hacker almost overnight. Sandy Lyle will never be captain and rightly so due to his many grumpy comments in the past not to mention the inexcusable quitting of the open after 9 holes. Of all his odd comments over the years no-one mentioned his dig at O'Connor on hearing he had been selected as a wild card for the 89 ryder cup. Thankfullly a 2-iron on the 18th proved wrong any doubts Mr Lyle had of Christys ability! Anyway lets not forget he was assistant captain in 2006 so he hasnt been completely left out.

  • Comment number 91.

    @ 90 Had forgotten about the open where he walked off, he did himself no favours with the R&A and Euro tour. At the time he was being mooted as a possible RC captain. He also had a spat with Monty about something, it might have been the ball replacing incident , either way the two of them fell out over whatever was said.

  • Comment number 92.

    Where did I say anything about a textbook swing?

  • Comment number 93.

    #81 WW

    Have you played every links course there is to play?

  • Comment number 94.


    Personally not a fan of island greens, but I think a well placed and fairly sized water hazard can only be an attribute to a golf hole. Particularly enjoy ponds and streams that look like they where there long before the course was.

  • Comment number 95.

    Jimmy fyi picks Hunter Mahan Mat Kucher and Lee Westwood
    Are you wanting picks for Madiera ???

  • Comment number 96.

    @93 GB....Only 2. They are in the North east and whilst links courses they don't use the "ocean" (or North Sea) as a hazard. I was just wondering whether there are many out there that actually use the "water" available. I'm thinking the vast majority don't but it's the climatic conditions that prove the test.
    I would be a very old man if I tried to play every links available ;-)

  • Comment number 97.

    I've played 4, and 3 of them have the ocean as a hazard.. guess it just depends what part of the world you are in! :)

  • Comment number 98.

    gbell you posted on 24th April. "But lets not get ahead of ourselves here. If we are accepting that Bubba's 'style' is unique then everyone should also accept that this 'style' has only won one major. The fact that someone is a reasonably respected position is advocating this wonderful way of playing the game should worry some of you in mainland Britain. 'Textbook' golfers have won countless more tournaments and majors than 'Bubba golf'."

  • Comment number 99.

    we are way past it mattering at all where the player who wins any tournament nowadays originally hails from. in this global sporting evironment, obviously anyone can win- that being said it's not a bad look back..but you think sandy lyle's -14 under was good?? 5 years prior to that in 1982 donnie hammond won the pgatour qualifying school held at sawgrass by 14 strokes- you think that kind of winning margin will ever happen again?? nah

  • Comment number 100.

    powerhitter @49, daveyboyfletcher @58 and LordVoldemort @59 et al:

    Key Statement from Don247:

    "I know I’ve been criticised for not blogging as much as the other guys leading into these weeks, but basically I don’t want to be 'burned out' by the time I’m 65".

    "This year I’m going to blog on 23 events, last year it was more like 30!"

    "I don’t want to be stale. I’m trying to find the perfect balance between golf blogging and having a normal life."

    "I don’t know if people will be surprised to see this — but I have a lot more going on in my life than golf blogging. My wife and I both travel a lot and it’s important we find time to do the things we want to do."

    (Statement "inspired" by you know who!)

    Anyway, that said:


    (Q): Who highlighted Rickie Fowler's "new" cross-handed putting grip last week, stating that since changing back to his old college grip Rickie's putting has improved immensely? (Look back the archives to confirm your suspicions!)

    (A): The "old git" with the "inability to see" and whose "old eyes (perhaps) need some stronger glasses" (Thanks jimmy and powerhitter, my "double-arch nemeses", whose "sagacious pronouncements" never fail to make them look and sound like a poor-man's Laurel and Hardy!)

    P.S. - jeffkenna and Don247 (both proven aficionados of the skills required to play "real links golf", not just the "fair weather" variety where no wind is involved like at Holywood GC) liked what they saw in Rickie Fowler's game at Royal St George's. In the foulest of weather, Rickie displayed some really fine shot-making, hitting a wide array of shots, controlling his ball flight - high and low - in the strong wind and showing great creativity and touch on and around the greens; all this while bedecked in white and orange waterproofs more suited to a light summer shower in sunny California than the constant downpour of a typical English summer's day on the South Coast.

    P.P.S. - Rickie subsequent displays didn't live up to the promise he showed at the Open, prompting Don247 to call for an immediate inspection/investigation of the young man's stones. Following "that wedge shot" to 4 feet and the follow-up birdie putt to capture his first PGA Tour title, the report has just come in and confirms that Rickie has indeed got a set and they're as BIG as any out there on tour .... in fact, big enough for America's golden boy to go on and win a major just like his "best bud" and "fellow Golf Boy", Bubba - that "good ol' boy" from Bagdad, Florida ... who is now (allegedly) part-time golfer and full-time father to his beloved Caleb! (Don't forget your loyal and loving fans, Bubba!!)

    P.P.P.S. - Remember Rickie beat Rory by 6 strokes in last year's Kolon (no, I kid you not!) Korea Open where, in the third round, Rickie shot a 63 to Rory's 73 (oops, another pasting for Rors on that day as well!!)

    P.P.P.P.S. - Girlfriend Alex confirms that Rickie is golf's "real poster boy" who makes Caro's puff pastry look quite fugly in comparison.

    P.P.P.P.P.S. - Indeed, the key question is: "Where is jeffkenna these days?" Possibly rubbing sun lotion into the Californian sun-kissed shoulders of a certain Paula Creamer, that "pink panther" of his. Of course, he did say that Paula took "quite a shine to him" the very moment she saw him at the Solheim Cup (his words!) with his debonair, jaunty good looks and muscular physique (his words again!), coupled with his extensive, in-depth knowledge of golf and golfers (Don247's words!). Indeed, we need jeffkenna to return and play on the "BBC Golf Links" which, unfortunately, have become the playground to more and more "high handicappers", like LordVoldemort, and "young whippersnappers", like jimmy and powerhitter, who display only limited empathy towards senior golfers/bloggers!

    P.P.P.P.P.P.S. - LordVoldemort, just look back at last week's and the week-before-last's blog archives to see how ridiculous your statement @59 really is!

    Blogging stats:
    Contributions to Rory Blog: LV - 1; Don247 - 27
    Contributions to Bubba Blog - LV - 4; Don247 - 7

    (That nose of yours is really out of joint; you should perhaps go and get it fixed. At the same time, you could also consider undergoing some serious attitude adjustment so as not to try and "lord" it over others on this blog!!)

    Cue: "Long Time Comin!" by Bruce ("The Boss") Springsteen


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