Lyle is one of the bright stars in Europe. While this was his first victory of the year, he led the European Order of Merit in both 1979 and '80 and has been among the top five money-winners for the last six years. With his $90,870 first prize, he'll most likely be there again this year. "You don't know him in America because Sandy seems to have something between his ears when he plays there," says Welsh pro Philip Parkin. "But when he gets hot, he plays better than anyone in the world." Last year he won five tournaments, including the Italian Open, the Lancome Trophy in Paris and the World Open in Japan.
Occasionally, Lyle does venture to the U.S. This year he earned $40,452 in 13 spring tournaments. His best finishes were ties for 15th at both the Crosby and Greensboro, although he did shoot a second-round 65 at the Masters, at which he tied for 25th.
Lyle comes from a golfing family. After World War I, his grandfather, a farmer, built the Clober Course near Glasgow. Since 1955, Sandy's father, Alex, has been a pro at a club in England's Shropshire County, where Sandy was born and raised. Last winter he, Christine and their 2-year-old son, Stuart, moved into an 11-room home on a golf course near Sheffield. Lyle, however, is a Scot and represents Scotland in international competition.
Walking up the 18th fairway Sunday to the waves of applause, Lyle said he was choked up by the moment. All day, everyone seemed loath to talk about the obvious—a Brit winning the British Open. Even the BBC television folks, like American baseball announcers who superstitiously won't talk about a pitcher working on a no-hitter, barely mentioned it. The stands, though, erupted with a shower of support. "It was fantastic," Lyle said. "You could cut the atmosphere with a knife. You got earaches from both left and right. I was talking to my caddie and he couldn't hear me."
It may have been a glorious week for Lyle, but the story was quite different for Nicklaus, Ballesteros and Tom Watson, who among them have won the title 10 times. Nicklaus, three times a champion, was miffed over his 3:20 p.m. starting time the first day. "It's the luck of the draw," he said, "but I'm going to ask them to shuffle the cards." Nicklaus had rounds of 75-77 and missed the cut for the first time in 24 British Open appearances. Also, it was the first time in his career that he had missed the cut in two majors in one season; he also failed to play 72 holes in last month's U.S. Open.
"They cannot stay at the top forever," said Lyle, speaking of the superstars who played poorly last week. "The time has to come for new names."
Watson, five times a champion, started Thursday with a double bogey and then meandered along with tepid rounds of 72-73-72-77—294. He had still another new putter, but the same swing that has not produced a victory since the Western Open a year ago. It's official. Watson's in a slump.
Ballesteros, twice a champion, had arrived at Sandwich on a hot streak, with 5-4-3-1-1 finishes in his last five European events, including victories in the Irish and French Opens. But he had a frustrating week. He putted, he said, "like Jose Feliciano." Ballesteros scored 75-74-70-73—292, finished in a distant tie for 39th and must have wondered if he was hexed, catching all the early bad weather. He also set a new standard for sour grapes. "Because of the weather," said Ballesteros, "I think maybe there will not be a very good champion this year." That remark might go down in British history.
Peter Jacobsen might go down in history, too. He started on Thursday with a flourish, going three under par in the first 13 holes before falling victim to the 14th. The hole is only 508 yards, but against the wind, which is how it seemed to play all week, it was nothing but bad news. The big problem at the 14th was the out-of-bounds fence that runs along the right side of the fairway and puts a terrible fright into a golfer standing on the tee. Jacobsen drove left, into the thick hay rough. A search conducted by Jacobsen, his caddie and a large portion of the gallery turned up three balls, none of them Jacobsen's, and he went back to hit another drive. That one sailed out of bounds. He reloaded, pounded the ball safely into the middle of the fairway and ultimately made a quadruple-bogey 9. "I never thought I'd be hitting my third tee shot on this hole until Saturday," Jacobsen quipped to the gallery.
On Sunday, Jacobsen delighted the crowd by tackling the streaker who ran across the 18th green. "He was in my line," explained Jacobsen, somewhat nonplussed.