NO WAY FOR A PROFESSIONAL TO BEHAVE
Sandy Lyle’s walk-off in the 1st round of the 137th Open was seen as poor sportsmanship by Frank Malley, PA chief sports writer. Here’s why
No doubt Sandy Lyle was numb with cold and seething with frustration when he walked out of Royal Birkdale in the middle of his first round in the 137th Open championship.
But that was no way to behave for a professional sportsman and a former winner of golf’s most prestigious tournament.
What about the spectators who had braved the ugliest of weather, many of them older ones who might have come to Birkdale to glimpse a man who was their golfing icon in the 1980s?
What about the player deprived of a place at the Open? Mark Brown, of New Zealand, who was on stand-by, would have enjoyed the weekend of his career if Lyle had quit before he teed off.
And what about the sport of golf?
Lyle let down all three when he decided enough was enough on the 10th green with his score on 11 over par and humiliation awaiting him on the homeward straight.
Of course, only those with a heart of stone could not feel for Lyle. He is a proud man, one who was blessed with a natural talent which took him to greatness but then, like Seve Ballesteros, saw the muse leave him.
He has spent much of the past 20 years trying to work out how he won the Open in 1985 and the US Masters in 1988. And much of the time it has left him bewildered.
Every weekend hacker who has clocked up 100 and the rest could sympathise with Lyle’s reasons or excuses, whichever way you look at it.
“I was all over the place,” he said. “It was total meltdown.” “I got a bit disheartened.”
But a professional given the privilege of competing in the sport’s top event should not quit. Especially one who harbours ambitions of becoming European Ryder Cup captain in the not-too-distant future.
Not that Lyle is the first sportsman to walk out mid-event.
Boxer Roberto Duran is famous for sitting on his stool and muttering ‘no mas’ when he had enough of his second encounter with Sugar Ray Leonard, although admittedly it is difficult to criticise anyone when life and limb are so obviously on the line.
Many criticised Paula Radcliffe for leaving her Olympic marathon hopes in the Athens gutter some five miles from home when gold was gone.
And Kevin Keegan famously left his country in the lurch midway through the World Cup qualifying process when he quit the job as England manager in a dilapidated toilet of the old Wembley after defeat by Germany.
But few have done so with quite such disregard for the paying public as Lyle, who has a history of going AWOL when the going gets tough having been disqualified back in 1991, also at Royal Birkdale, when he walked off without completing his second round after his tee shot at the 18th went out of bounds.
Peter Dawson, chief executive of the R&A, surely spoke for many when he insisted that professional golfers should complete a round because “that is what they are paid to do.”
But perhaps former American football legend Vince Lombardi once put it even more succinctly: “Winners never quit and quitters never win.”
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