Thursday, 18 July 2002
Sandy Lyle and Des Smyth proved that age is no barrier to performance at Muirfield as they got The European Tour challenge for the 131st Open Golf Championship off to a superb start with matching three under par 68s.

Lyle, the Champion at Royal St George’s in 1985, finished in style with three birdies in a row from the 16th while Smyth, the oldest winner in the history of The European Tour, recovered from a bogey five at the opening hole to be flawless thereafter, his birdies coming at the fifth, sixth, 11th and 17th.

Smyth, out in the very first group of the day, revealed he was relieved to be playing at all after falling asleep in his car on Tuesday after a long practice session and lying awkwardly, doing damage to his back.

“ I couldn’t practice at all on Wednesday so I just took a day off and rested but it doesn’t seem to have done me any harm,” said Smyth. “However the conditions are perfect, there was very little wind, which helped a lot but the secret here is definitely to stay out of the long grass.

“You are hitting a lot of two irons off tees because at the moment there is no need to take driver. But it is a fair test and if you play steady, patient golf you can make a score which is what I did.”

Lyle said: "I would have taken three pars to finish to be honest but to birdie them all was a little special, a little bonus and it certainly got the juices going. It is all about momentum building and my confidence is very good at the moment."

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