The backswing is a good deal shorter than it once was and the tour bag has been replaced with an off-the-shelf stand bag.
Be that as it may, Sandy Lyle demonstrated he’s lost none of his nerve as he got The 147th Open underway at Carnoustie this morning.
After a brief warm-up and inexplicably clad in an Open-branded rain jacket on a flat calm, bone dry morning – the likes of which are rare in these parts – the 1985 ‘Champion Golfer of the Year’ arrived on the first tee at precisely 6.30am. The Claret Jug stood guard on a plinth on the corner of the tee box as a near-full grandstand showed its appreciation for Scotland’s only post-War multiple major champion with hearty applause.
Five minutes later, it was that time.
On the tee from Scotland - Sandy Lyle.
Out rang the cheers once again. It be two days shy of the 33rd anniversary of his victory at Royal St George’s and many in the stands might not have born when he lifted golf’s most iconic prize on the Kent coast but Lyle, on what is likely to be his final Open appearance, is as respected by the home galleries as ever.
It was a confident opening salvo, too. He hammered an iron down the middle of the fairway with little faff or fuss. A perfect start.
He leaked his approach into the rough on the right of the green, short-siding himself somewhat and leaving a tricky up-and-down for par.
Again, he rolled back the years, craftily chipping up to a foot from the hole before converting his putt for a par.
Having turned 60 in February past, this marks the final year of Lyle’s Open exemption as a past champion. Barring a top ten finish this week or victory in next week’s Senior Open at St Andrews, this is likely to be his 43rd and final Open appearance.
His name, though, will forever be etched on the Claret Jug.