In 1976, Lyle and Faldo were persuaded to try for golf scholarships at the University of Houston. "American golfers come out of American colleges, and America makes better players than anybody else" was the sales pitch. Lyle failed the qualifying exam and went home after three weeks. Faldo passed, but he left after 10 weeks. "I'm not too sure why it seemed like a good idea," says Lyle. "It just seemed to be the In thinking at that stage."
Faldo is less charitable. "It was a step backward," he says. "All of a sudden I had to go to school every morning and then head out to the golf course, which in Houston was 45 minutes away. You'd whiz around in a four-ball, and that was it. I never had time to practice, so I went to the coach and said, 'I don't want to play anymore. I need to go and practice. I haven't practiced for weeks.' So at the next team meeting he said [Faldo is a good mimic], 'Boys, there's been a complaint that you're not practicing. Let me tell you, the great golfers out there today are great players'.
"But I got my way. I practiced for three or four days and I played in a small tournament and I won it. Next meeting he says, "Boys, if you want to be a great player, ya gotta practice!' So I said, 'I'm going home,' and that was the end of that."
Soon after Faldo returned to England he turned professional. Lyle remained an amateur for another season in order to play in the Walker Cup. Then he, too, turned in his blazer and tie. In 1977 Faldo was Rookie of the Year on the European tour. In 1978 Lyle was Rookie of the Year. In 1979 Lyle was the leading money winner and Faldo won only a minor South African tournament. In 1980 Lyle was at the top of the money list again, and Faldo finished in fourth place.
So it went, measuring one another and being measured, always against each other. Faldo was first to win in the U.S., but Lyle was first to win the British Open. Then Faldo won the British, but Lyle won the Masters. Then Faldo won the Masters....
As inseparable in their time as Hogan and Snead or Nicklaus and Palmer were in theirs, Faldo and Lyle are like a pair of old vaudevillians. They feed each other lines and then, with a deft bit of business, like a seven-iron shot from a fairway bunker or a 25-foot putt in approaching darkness, one steals the spotlight from the other, but the show goes on. Even in this new golden age of golf, when all the world's a stage and other stars shine equally bright, theirs will be an act to remember.