LONDON, Feb 5 (Reuters) - Former U.S. Masters and British Open champion Sandy Lyle can once again dream of leading Europe’s Ryder Cup team, having given up two years ago on the prospect of being named skipper.
Lyle, the only member of ‘big five’ in the 1980s to miss out on the captaincy, had the bounce restored to his 54-year-old step following a phone call last month from Players’ Committee chairman Thomas Bjorn.
Bjorn told the Scot, who sat at the top of Europe’s golfing tree along with Nick Faldo, Seve Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer and Ian Woosnam three decades ago, he was one of five candidates discussed before Ireland’s Paul McGinley got the vote as 2014 skipper.
“That was very nice to hear,” Lyle told Reuters in an interview. “At least I‘m still being considered because two years ago I thought that was it and I was regarded as too old for the captaincy.”
Lyle said it came as a surprise to learn he was mentioned in dispatches along with McGinley, Colin Montgomerie, Paul Lawrie and Miguel Angel Jimenez for the next Ryder Cup against United States at Gleneagles next year.
”They never told me I was under consideration for the captaincy,“ said the 1985 British Open winner and 1988 U.S. Masters champion. ”It was only when I got a phone call from Thomas the very night they made their decision that I knew.
”They seem to have deleted the unwritten rule that says when you reach 50 it is the end of your Ryder Cup chances.
“We live in hope and I shall keep my ears and eyes open from now on. Tom Watson being chosen to lead the U.S. has opened the door for us oldies,” said Lyle.
“Tom will be 65 in 2014. Maybe I could be considered now for a Ryder Cup in the States, especially with my experience of playing over there.”
One thing the amiable Scot will not be doing, though, is entering into the sort of unseemly electioneering that went on before McGinley was announced as skipper.
“I‘m not going to campaign for it,” said Lyle. “If they want me it’ll be most welcome but I‘m not going to cry about it or lose any sleep if they don‘t.”
Lyle may have been overlooked as skipper for the next Ryder Cup in his native land but he has not given up hope of getting the nod as one of McGinley’s vice-captains.
“I’ll be keeping that week free and I shall be around and hopefully involved, if not with the team then with some PR work,” said the five-times Ryder Cup player.
“Maybe we can get some good names floating about up there at Gleneagles. If someone like myself turns up, or a Faldo, then at least we’ll have some strong names who can lend support.”
Lyle said McGinley, who claimed four European Tour victories as a player, would have his work cut out in his head to head duel with Watson who won four of his eight major championships in Scotland.
”Tom is almost an icon in Scotland,“ Lyle explained. ”He is well liked there and it’s going to be awkward for McGinley because he has got a lot to live up to.
”It’ll test him to his limits. When you mention Tom Watson he gets a lot of respect ... he’s like a Lee Trevino or a Jack Nicklaus.
“McGinley doesn’t have that background but he’s known by the European players and he is easy to talk to.”
Among the Irishman’s key tasks will be to communicate well with his team and to the public.
Faldo gave a clumsy address at the opening ceremony in 2008 when he referred to Danish player Soren Hansen as ‘Soren Stenson’ and did not seem to know whether Ulsterman Graeme McDowell was from the north or south of Ireland.
”Perhaps Faldo might have taken the captaincy job a little lightly...I don’t think he realised how much work was involved,“ said Lyle. ”He probably could have done the job a lot better and I think McGinley will take it very seriously.
“When it comes to the war of words and the way the speeches go, that’s an important thing. McGinley needs to get the crowd to rise to the occasion and get the players going,” added Lyle.
”It’s not all about playing golf. He doesn’t have Tom Watson’s playing pedigree so he’ll have to choose his words well.
“But McGinley has a lot of experience of team events, having played in the Ryder Cup and been a Seve Trophy captain and Ryder Cup vice-captain. He’s a good choice and he’ll do a good job.” (Editing by Ed Osmond)