BY DOUG FERGUSON
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland (AP) — Sandy Lyle has a green jacket and his name on the claret jug. He might have one other thing in common with Jack Nicklaus — a birdie on what likely was his final hole in the British Open.
This is the final year of eligibility for the 60-year-old Lyle, who played his first British Open in 1974 as a 16-year-old amateur. The only way back is to win the Senior British Open, so the Scot isn’t giving up on it just yet.
Still, there was a lump in his throat walking up the 18th at Carnoustie. And then he holed the putt for birdie, much like Nicklaus when he retired from major championship golf at St. Andrews in 2005.
“I was very light-footed, I know that,” Lyle said. “I was on cloud nine walking down the 18th. It’s quite a spectacular view to come down there. … To make birdie was extra special.”
Lyle began the week with the honor of hitting the first tee shot. He had rounds of 75-76, and now heads to St. Andrews.
“There’s always a chance I could play my way back into the tournament. I will try. I won’t totally, totally give up,” Lyle said. “In theory, it seems like it’s the last Open for me as far as turning back. I’ll have to work to get back in again. I have no regrets. I’ve had a good run.”
Lyle won the British Open in 1985 at Royal St. George’s. He won the Masters three years later.
THE BEST BIRTHDAY
Shubhankar Sharma of India turns 22 on Saturday at the British Open and received the best present ever.
He has a tee time.
Sharma, already having a banner year with two European Tour victories and a special invitation to the Masters last April, was looking to have a short week at Carnoustie when he was 5-over par after a bogey on the 12th hole. The cut line was 2 over at the time — it eventually moved to 3 over — and Sharma still faced the challenging four holes at the end.
He birdied three of the last six holes, including an approach to six feet on the 18th for birdie, shot 71 and wound up making it with one shot to spare.
“This is my favorite major championship, and this will be my first major cut,” Sharma said. “Definitely a big moment for me, and I have my birthday tomorrow. So it will be the best birthday present.”
He also claims a footnote in history as the youngest Indian to make the cut in a major.
Sharma’s two victories in Malaysia and Johannesburg got him into his first World Golf Championship in Mexico, and he introduced himself on a world stage by taking a two-shot lead into the final round. He closed with a 74 and finished six shots behind.
His performance got the attention of Augusta National, which gave him a special foreign invitation, though he missed the cut. He qualified for the U.S. Open, but finished with a four-putt double bogey and missed the cut at Shinnecock Hills.
He managed to keep calm during his struggles on Friday.
“One of the best finishes I’ve had,” Sharma said. “I had a bad finish at the U.S. Open this time. I was inside the cut line, and I finished bogey double and missed it, four-putted on the last. So that left a scar. But I am really happy I could get back the way I did today, and just to make the cut is wonderful.”
Fanny Sunesson still gets recognized as the caddie for Nick Faldo toward the end of his career, especially his victory in the 1996 Masters. Lately, she has been working with the German national team and then working for Swedish TV.
She’s back on the bag this week for Adam Scott.
Scott parted ways with his caddie, David Clark, right after they qualified for the U.S. Open. He used a local caddie at Shinnecock Hills, and at the time had not decided who he would use for the rest of the year. Sunesson might be working only this week.
“It would be up to her, but I don’t think she’s making plans of a comeback,” Scott said after a 70 left him at 1-under 141 for the tournament.
“I was being a bit opportunistic in contacting her and coaxing her out of retirement from caddying. But I think she’s having a good week. We’ll just take it one week at the moment.”
Scott had Steve Williams as his caddie when he won the 2013 Masters. Williams and Sunesson are good friends.
“Fanny’s from that same breed — incredibly professional, experience, leaving as little to chance as possible,” Scott said. “I guess that shows in their results over the years.”
Most players carried large umbrellas adorned with the logo of an equipment company or corporate logo. Tommy Fleetwood’s was yellow, smaller, with a tournament logo that looked like he bought from the merchandise shop.
And that’s what happened — except for paying for it.
“We got one given for free, but we don’t always carry an umbrella,” Fleetwood said. “See, we don’t have a sponsor. We don’t have a manufacturer sponsor. So it just so happens this week that we’ve got a nice Open Championship brelly. It looked quite nice, the yellow and the course.”
And it worked.
Russell Knox was brutally honest about playing for the first time with Tiger Woods and the tension he felt in his swing. He said what most players think.
After missing the cut by one shot, Knox said it was back to normal.
“You’re only going to ever get to play the first time with him once, and that was mine,” Knox said. “We chatted away. He was nice to me. I was nice to him, I think. So I enjoyed my time out there. I enjoyed watching him play. He’s Tiger Woods for a reason. He hit some incredible shots and just picked his way around the course well. So yeah, I think it was important to get it out of the way.”
He paused for effect.
“And next time, I’ll bury him,” Knox said to laughter.
It was a month Knox won’t forget. He came over to Europe not knowing if he would play in the next two majors. He was runner-up in the French Open to earn a spot in the British Open, and he won the Irish Open for his third career victory, which likely gets him in a World Golf Championship and the PGA Championship.
So even though he missed the cut at the British Open in his native Scotland, he planned to leave with good memories.
Plus, he’s tired. This was his sixth straight tournament, and 10th in the last 11 weeks.
Asked if he would stay around Scotland for a few days before heading home to Jacksonville, Florida, Knox smiled.
“Start up my G5 right now at the airport,” he said. “No, I wish. I had a flight booked on Monday. Maybe I’ll leave Sunday. I’m not sure. It will be nice to go home. I’m fed up wearing the same clothes for the last six weeks packed in my bag.”
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