TURNBERRY, Scotland(AP) Just two days before the start of the British Open, Sandy Lyle apologized to Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie for bringing up a 4-year-old incident in which his fellow Scot was accused of cheating.
That said, Lyle didn’t back away from his belief that Montgomerie placed his ball in the wrong position after a rain delay at the 2005 Indonesian Open.
Montgomerie was cleared by rules officials but issued an apology and donated his prize money to charity.
“I didn’t prefabricate this thing,” Lyle said Tuesday. “I’m only going from what other people have said, and it was a pretty poor drop. And it was one of his mistakes. I didn’t make him do that mistake. It was his mistake. And it will probably live with him for the rest of his life.”
Lyle’s comments are sure to strain relations between the two golfers, who both lobbied to be captain of the European team at the 2010 Ryder Cup. Montgomerie got the nod, and some wondered if Lyle was hurt by his decision to pull out of last year’s British Open after he played the first 10 holes at 11 over par.
“It’s a rather strange apology, to be honest with you,” Montgomerie told British media. “I’m just trying to come down here and compete in the Open and my preparations have been slightly dented. I’m not very happy about that at all.”
Lyle said his comments, made last week and published Tuesday by several British newspapers, stemmed from his frustration over being asked repeatedly about last year’s Open. So he brought up the 2005 tournament in Jakarta, which was halted by rain with Montgomerie facing a difficult shot off the slope of a bunker.
The next day, Montgomerie replaced his ball in a spot that appeared to provide a more favorable stance. He wound up getting the finish he needed to remain among the top 50 in the world rankings, good enough for a spot in the Masters.
“Monty dropped the ball badly and that is a form of cheating,” Lyle said in the interview. “What he did was far worse” than withdrawing from a tournament.
Lyle, who won the British Open in 1985 and the Masters in 1988, wasn’t even planning to be at Turnberry on Tuesday. But he showed up for a hastily called news conference to read a statement and take questions. The media room was packed with more reporters than the 51-year-old Lyle has likely dealt with in two decades.
“Colin Montgomerie and I are not at war. Colin is a great champion and a good friend,” Lyle said. “I was trying to make the point by comparison that neither of these incidents had anything to do with the selection of the current Ryder Cup captain.
“I deeply regret making this comparison and apologize to Colin for involving him in my own issue. I feel especially bad if I have jeopardized his preparation for the Open championship.”
Lyle said he had not been able to reach Montgomerie to make a personal apology, though he believes they will meet at some point this week.
“He’s kept behind the scenes at the moment. I did try but have not succeeded,” Lyle said. “I hope our friendship is still there.”
When Lyle withdrew from last year’s Open at Birkdale, he didn’t mention anything about an injury. He now says an ailing hand caused him to drop out – not his poor play and the miserable conditions.
Lyle’s withdrawal stirred up plenty of debate, and there was speculation that it might have cost him the Ryder Cup job.
“My real mistake last year was not explaining the injury when I retired,” he said. “It was my belief that last year’s incident had nothing to do with the selection of the current Ryder Cup captain.”
Lyle said he actually congratulated Montgomerie when they played at last week’s Scottish Open.
“I’ve got no vendetta against Colin at all. I’m all for him,” Lyle said. “The last thing he wants right now is having all this baloney going on right now before he tees off this week.”
Lyle said he was “only trying to protect myself when I get called a quitter.” As for Montgomerie, there was an apology but no backing off from the cheating claims.
“I don’t think you need me to say it, but the problem was- the drop wasn’t close to where it should be,” Lyle said. “And of course on TV it doesn’t lie.”