Sandy Lyle signs off with a lump in his throat and plans for Royal Portrush

Sandy Lyle signed off with a birdie at the 18th after holing a swinging 20ft putt that in effect drew a line under his Open career after 42 consecutive appearances in the world’s oldest major.

The Scot, Open champion at Royal St George’s in 1985, when he won by a shot from the late Payne Stewart, was emotional at the end of his round and pulled a handkerchief from his pocket to wave to the crowd before pretending to dab away a tear. “I was on cloud nine walking down the 18th,” he said. “It’s quite a spectacular view to come down there. I managed to stay away from crying but there was definitely a lump in my throat.”

Lyle, who made his Open debut as an amateur in 1974, the year of Gary Player’s third and final victory, was 60 in February and his exemption as a past winner has expired but he has not given up hope of appearing at Royal Portrush next year as there is a place available for the winner of next week’s Seniors Open at St Andrews and he is in the field. Lyle’s unbroken run started at Turnberry in 1977, when he also played as an amateur, before returning at St Andrews the next year in his first as a professional.

“If I win next week, then I’ll be back again,” Lyle added. “There’s always a chance I could play my way back into the tournament. I will try, I won’t totally give up. I’d like to beat Gary Player one time. He had the 65 rule until his exemption ran out. I’ve accepted that this is going to be, most likely, the last one.”

The Open 2018: Third round tee times

9.15am BST Gavin Green (Mal)
9.25am Rhys Enoch (Wal), Patrick Reed (US)
9.35am Kiradech Aphibarnrat (Tha), Justin Rose (Eng)
9.45am Yusaku Miyazato (Jpn), Tyrrell Hatton (Eng)
9.55am Ross Fisher (Eng), Keegan Bradley (US)

10.05am Ryan Fox (NZ), Jason Dufner (US)
10.15am Bryson DeChambeau (US), Henrik Stenson (Swe)
10.25am Tom Lewis (Eng), Sam Locke a (Sco)
10.35am Paul Casey (Eng), Chris Wood (Eng)
10.45am Bernhard Langer (Ger), Rafael Cabrera-Bello (Sp)
11am Paul Dunne (Ire), Brett Rumford (Aus)

11.10am Masahiro Kawamura (Jpn), Shubhankar Sharma (Ind)
11.20am Cameron Smith (Aus), Brendan Steele (USA)
11.30am Marc Leishman (Aus), Lee Westwood (Eng)
11.40am An Byeong-hun (Kor), Kevin Na (US)
11.50am Julian Suri (US), Adam Hadwin (Can)
Midday Gary Woodland (US), Kim Si-woo (Kor)

 Yuta Ikeda (Jpn), Satoshi Kodaira (Jpn)
12.20pm Marcus Kinhult (Swe), Thomas Pieters (Bel)
12.30pm Beau Hossler (US), Li Haotong (Chn)
12.45pm Cameron Davis (Aus), Sean Crocker (US)
12.55pm Louis Oosthuizen (SA), Stewart Cink (US)

1.05pm Phil Mickelson (US), Austin Cook (US)
1.15pm Shaun Norris (SA), Tiger Woods (US)
1.25pm Lucas Herbert (Aus), Michael Kim (US)
1.35pm Jason Day (Aus), Francesco Molinari (It)
1.45pm Kang Sung-hoon (Kor), Webb Simpson (US)
1.55pm Patrick Cantlay (US), Eddie Pepperell (Eng)

2.05pm Matthew Southgate (Eng), Brooks Koepka (US)
2.15pm Kyle Stanley (US), Adam Scott (Aus)
2.30pm Charley Hoffman (US), Alex Norén (Swe)
2.40pm Ryan Moore (US), Brandon Stone (SA)
2.50pm Luke List (US), Danny Willett (Eng)
3pm Thorbjørn Olesen (Den), Rickie Fowler (US)

3.10pm Jordan Spieth (US), Kevin Chappell (US)
3.20pm Zander Lombard (SA), Tony Finau (US)
3.30pm Matt Kuchar (US), Erik Van Rooyen (SA)
3.40pm Rory McIlroy (NI), Xander Schauffele (US)
3.50pm Pat Perez (US), Tommy Fleetwood (Eng)
4pm Kevin Kisner (US), Zach Johnson (US)

Photograph: Paul Childs/X03809
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Player contested a record 46 consecutive Opens, lifting the Claret Jug in the 50s, 60s and 70s, but Lyle, who also won the Masters in 1988, famously finding the green from a fairway bunker on the 18th – which is known in the British Isles as the “Sandy Lyle bunker” – and making birdie, hinted that he may even try to get into a future Open field through regional qualifying. “If it’s up here in Scotland and I’m living up here, I might just give it a run in the next few years. That would be it.”

Lyle was accorded the honour by the R&A of hitting the opening tee shot on Thursday, in line with the recent trend which saw Mark O’Meara last year and Colin Montgomerie at Troon in 2016 do the same, and he found the fairway for the first of three pars before he followed up with birdies at the 4th and 6th, either side of a bogey, to get his name on the leaderboard once again. He held it together at par until the 13th, where he finally slipped and finished on 74, four over. Nevertheless his final total for 36 holes was a commendable nine over.

“To miss cuts in the Opens, it’s never a nice feeling in any pro golfer and, as you get older, you know it’s going to happen more often. You’ve just got to keep a stiff upper lip and prepare yourself for the next Open Championship. I’ve managed to keep it going for 40-odd years. It’s frustrating but I’m quite happy.”

The Scot, who to his great regret was passed over for the Ryder Cup captaincy handed to his major-winning peers Nick Faldo and Ian Woosnam – though he was an assistant to the latter for the win at the K Club in 2006 – was taught to play by his late father, Alex, and says his swing is still recognisably the original model, albeit about two feet shorter. “It’s very similar,” Lyle added. “It’s disappointing that it’s getting a little short on long golf courses but that’s really my own swing.”

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