Sandy Lyle will attempt to make history by becoming one of 16 golfers to earn Open Championship berths out of the 278 playing teeing it up in Tuesday’s final qualifying at four different venues.
If Lyle, 64, can come through the 36-hole shootout, he will break Gary Player’s record of 45 years for the longest gap between first and last appearances in the British major. Lyle made his debut in the Open when he was a 16-year-old in 1974, meaning that he would set a new mark of 48 years.
Lyle played the most recent of his 43 Opens in 2018 at Carnoustie, the year that his exemption as the 1985 champion ran out.
Everybody, including Lyle, believed that would be it for the Scot as far as the Claret Jug was concerned, but he has been lured back by The Open celebrating a special anniversary and the identity of the Lancashire venue when he has chosen to take his chance.
“It’s the 150th Open and it would be wonderful to play in that landmark event,” Lyle said. “When I qualified as a wide-eyed teenager in ‘74, I did so at St Anne’s Old Links and there I’ll be again, trying my damnedest, almost a half century on.
“I’m not fully fit, I’ve done a hamstring, but I’m about 75 percent and will have a go. What have I got to lose? This will be my last shot at The Open.”
Lyle’s work is cut out as other, younger Ryder Cuppers such as Andy Sullivan and Oliver Wilson are gunning for a place at the Home of Golf; as are recent DP World Tour winners like Aaron Rai and Marcus Armitage. Yet dreams are often made in FQ and as to highlight golf’s unique ability to pit the generations against each other, 15-year-old Sean Keeling is also in the St Anne’s field.
The Dublin schoolboy is a member of the Made in Holywood Academy, with which Rory McIlroy’s coach Michael Bannon is involved. Keeling already has a big reputation, which only grew when he shot a seven-under 65 to win his regional qualifier.