July 14, 2003
ROYAL ST. GEORGE'S, ENGLAND
STEWART McDOUGALL: Ladies and gentlemen, Sandy Lyle, the Open champion of 1985. Sandy, it's now 18 years since you won here. How does it feel to be back at Sandwich after that long period?
SANDY LYLE: It doesn't feel like 18 years, I can tell you that right now. The weather has been very good this week so far. I've now spoken to about three guys who played the golf course -- Darren Clarke last week, and just spoke to Mark O'Meara just now, and they all went (indicating), the fairways must be playing very tight. So we're going to have a battle on our hands this week.
Q. Do you remember the last day in '85?
SANDY LYLE: I remember that driving the ball was a big help, because you play St. Andrews and other courses, you know the holes, and you may be able to find an adjoining fairway or something, but here it's not the case. You have to drive the ball straight. And no matter if you go 20 yards, 30 yards off line, you just go deeper and deeper into the jungle, and probably a no-return area, if you're not careful. So here -- if it gets windy, and what I've gathered from some of the players already, we've got a battle on our hands, because of the fairway situation, and it's going to be running, too. It's been dry, so there's going to be bounce. A lot of different from Loch Lomond last week, where the ball was hitting the ground and stopping. Now we have more bounce to take into consideration.
Q. How quickly is it possible to make the switch obviously from the conditions you played in at Loch Lomond to here, just mentally and technically?
SANDY LYLE: It doesn't really take very long. We work with yardage all our life. And now we've got range finders and lasers, and the main thing really is judging the distances, because the air is so much heavier when you get towards links golf courses and that. You need to make some changes there and get used to the distances involved because 170 yards in Loch Lomond last week could be probably a 7-iron, and here it could be a 9-iron, or even more, depends on what the wind is doing. But that doesn't take long. If the ground is bouncy, and one, two practice rounds, even the first round is fine, just so you get an idea of what the ball is doing. That's why we play practice rounds. The pin position will obviously be very important, as well.
Q. So many of the Americans come over and play Loch Lomond, completely different conditions than links courses?
SANDY LYLE: I'm not surprised, because some of the early Americans that have been to Loch Lomond have gone back and reported and said it's a fantastic area, it's the sea. The scenery, and the golf course is really quite special. And a lot of them come over for the Open. But it's not great preparation for a links type golf course, it's an inland course. The Americans think the inland course, they might -- they're used to an inland course. That's their style of play. So they've made the choice and they come over.
Q. Are you and Dave using lasers or are you just going on feel and history? How does it work for you?
SANDY LYLE: I think feel and history -- oh, there wasn't any lasers then, I think they had the wheel when Woosie came on the Tour with me, the measuring wheels. We still use them these days. But generally they use the lasers. It's always a backup system having the laser. I'll have the laser out, checking the bunkers, and getting information. They're very accurate. It's all part of the changing times. It doesn't help you to play any better, it gives you more information and accurate yardage.
Q. How do you feel about Ian Woosnam having to qualify this year?
SANDY LYLE: It seems quite strange. Just a few years ago he almost won the Open Championship. And that's just part of the way life seems to go these days. If you don't keep your standards up, and you drop out of the top-20 in the money list, it becomes quite difficult, plus he wishes he had the chance to win the Open, and I'm pleased that I've done it. Every year I know I can tee up on the first tee and play the Open Championship until I've had enough. It's a nice feeling to have. Of all the majors, The Masters and the Open Championship, these are the two that would be my wish list to play in every year. So I can't complain that side of it.
Q. Do you feel you've had enough credit for what you achieved, 18 years ago?
SANDY LYLE: From winning the Open?
Q. Winning the Open after such a long gap. Then you went on to win The Masters.
SANDY LYLE: Do I think I've had enough credit? I think it all depends on how you want to see yourself go, if you want to go sort of Hollywood route and do all the commercials, it is available. But I sort of shunned from all that thing. They were there at that time, but I didn't want to do it. My golf to me was more important. Unfortunately the golf went south for quite a time in the '90s, so I have more of a battle trying to get my golf game back together again. But I could have gone what I call the Hollywood route, but I didn't do that.
Q. No one would quibble about your ability to hit the ball a long way, Sandy. But do you necessarily need to do that here or is accuracy off the tee the kind of strength that might make a champion? Can you talk about what kind of golfer you think will do well here this week?
SANDY LYLE: The sort of players I think could do very well is not going to be a powerhouse-type player. Somebody playing like Freddie Funk, dark horse, straight player, not very long player. But if fairways are tight, and as dry -- I haven't been out there yet -- but I presume they'll be dry and bouncy in places. There's somebody hitting a lot of long irons, positional play. Tiger has to do it now. He knows himself. He'll have to use 1-irons or 2-irons, so he'll do that. He's very disciplined. He'll be quite comfortable doing that. You can't leave Tiger out. He'll get himself around that golf course.
Q. You would accept, then, that the length of the people like Els, does that negate by the way the course is set up here?
SANDY LYLE: If you look at the Masters thing. The Masters really is pretty much power. If you can drive the ball a long way, you can be a little crooked now and then, it's the type of course that you can get it around, and power doesn't make a difference on the par-5s. This week we have a totally different set up. It's similar to Carnoustie. It's going to be patience, driving it accurate. But distance is not going to be the No. 1 thing. It's going to be pretty much keep it in play, a lot of irons off the tee.
The second hole around here you don't usually hit driver, you can play an iron off the tee. And the 4th hole, I'm surprised to see that they've changed it to a par-5. But I'm sure they've got some sort of thing up their sleeve to make it into a par-5. It's going to be a short par-5, but I dare say it will be the big bunker on the right-hand side that will play a big part of it. I think it will be a 280, 290 carry over. That will be playing short with an iron, 3-iron off the tee and an iron over the top or whatever. So there will be something out there. The next hole, the 5th hole, is generally usually an iron off the tee. And then you've got the par-5s coming up. There's a lot of iron shots, a lot of long irons.
Q. Do you prefer that style of golf or not?
SANDY LYLE: I like to have a blend of everything, really. Some course where you have choices to make. There are a few holes where there won't be much choices. You basically have to do it with an iron off the tee. Holes like 14 are going to be pretty much an iron off the tee, because you can't hit driver, because of the cross burn there. So there's another point where it's like you're handcuffed, you have to hit the iron off the tee, and it will probably be a very long second shot.
Q. Does the challenge and variation of links golf still excite you more than playing a major championship on a parkland course?
SANDY LYLE: The challenge of a links course can change by the hour out there because of the bounce. I look forward to playing the course. It's firm conditions. And it's an old-style golf course, and I'm looking forward to playing it. It still excites me to play there, yeah.
Unfortunately, over the years, links courses are changing a little bit. Aerial photographs of Carnoustie a few years ago, it was green, which is not usual in July, when the links courses were dry and wispy. Where we all have watering systems and watered fairways. They are changing. I think sometimes the water has been over used and it's making -- once you go off the fairway, it's making it very thick, and they don't tend to look after the rough as much as we did years ago.
Q. Do you get a plus when you see it here?
SANDY LYLE: I'm looking forward to getting out there hopefully in the next 20 minutes, and I'll have my views there then.
Q. This is a big week from the Ryder Cup captaincy point of view. Are you a contender as the next Ryder Cup captain or --
SANDY LYLE: Your guess is as good as mine at the moment. My name is in the pot for Ryder Cup captain. If I get it this year or the next few times, I don't know. I wouldn't like to leave it too long, because you tend to lose touch with your younger players, if you're not playing full-time in Europe and things. So I would wish to do it fairly soon. But my name is in the pot so whatever the committee decides, it will be up to them, not up to me.
Q. You have to apply, though. What do you think of that?
SANDY LYLE: Well, I dare say as long as you put your name there, and the qualifications, I think, are reasonably good. It's not like I haven't won tournaments before. As far as being a good captain, no guarantee until you're faced with the situation.
Q. You waited quite a long while for a European to win a major. Do you think that drought could end this week?
SANDY LYLE: Last year we almost had some close calls with some younger players there that came through, a fourway playoff and things. It was fantastic and exciting. It was going to be an exciting Open because of the way the course was played. And of course -- when the course is playing long and narrow, it narrows it down to a few players. But Muirfield was always going to be an Open Open. This could be a little bit less Open Open because of the style of play. But I think the Europeans, they've got an excellent chance.
Q. Why do you think the Americans have done better in the British over the last 7, 8 years, after kind of a long dry spell when you won and I think they only won once in ten years?
SANDY LYLE: I don't think you can pinpoint it to one thing why the Americans are doing better in the Open Championship. I couldn't say what it was. It goes in cycles. For quite some time the Europeans dominated the U.S. masters, and then Tiger comes along and he dominates it. The turntable is going towards America. At the moment the British Open, the Open has been dominated by a lot of Americans. And that can change very quickly. We've got some young players now in Europe ready to break through. But I couldn't say which way technology has helped or what, I have no idea, but it goes in cycles.
Q. Do you think it has something to do with there are more American-style courses in Europe, more being played over here?
SANDY LYLE: It could well be. A lot of the modern design courses are very much towards the American -- Loch Lomond, really, look at it, it'S like an American golf course. The type of grass we use, the way the fairways are shaped, the style of bunkers and that are very much towards America.
Q. Have any of the young Europeans asked your advice about Sandwich, coming up to this tournament?
SANDY LYLE: No, they all know too much these days, these young ones.
Q. What are your ambitions this week? Obviously to win.
SANDY LYLE: My ambitions are to win, yes. But you don't really know until you get started. I would be -- if I could get a top-10 right now, I would be very happy with my performance. Last year I was very pleased in the first two rounds that I was up there, and then didn't really play very well at the weekend. But I put some good rounds together, which is encouraging knowing I can still do it. I've been playing pretty reasonable the last few months, putting a lot of birdies on the card, but bogeys and double bogeys, and trouble finding my ball now and then. So I've been putting some big numbers up.
Q. Have you had any feedback from the ball spotters in general?
SANDY LYLE: No, I haven't, no, no. I've got a Christmas list now, I know that, for cards and things.
STEWART McDOUGALL: Sandy, thank you very much.
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