Sandy Lyle rolled back the years two decades after his Masters Tournament win with a superb three under par 69 at the Ryder Cup Wales Seniors Open, then joked that he “felt like Tiger Woods for a few minutes”.
The two time major winner, playing in his first European Seniors Tour event in Europe, is a shot clear of Australian David Merriman after producing some stunning golf in the first round at Conwy (Caernarvonshire) Golf Course.
A massive 356 yard two iron tee shot on the 522 yard par five 14th hole to set up an eagle three was the highlight of the Scot’s round in blustery conditions as he underlined his skill on links courses.
Lyle, who joined the Seniors Tour after turning 50 in February, followed that with a birdie on the 15th hole to move to the top of the leaderboard as played the back nine in 32.
He said: “It was a good start. Anything under par today was always going to be up there. I played some very good golf. I didn’t think I’d come back in 32 though. I had an eagle on the 14th when I hit a magic two iron about 356 yards down the fairway to leave myself a nine iron to the green. I felt like Tiger Woods for a few minutes.
“When you do that sort of thing with a two iron then a nine iron and hole the putt it all seems very easy but they don’t come along very often these days, those sort of holes.
“Most of the par fives you play are usually 600 yards or there are narrow fairways or soft fairways so I’ve not really been hitting many eagles. Today with the wind and the dry fairways it’s a real links golf course out there.
“I didn’t do much wrong. I hit a couple of bunkers off tee shots which limited my chances of making birdies. All day you are just trying to stay in the picture and not let it get away from you which can happen very quickly out there. I holed a nice birdie on the tenth from about 12 feet and that just set things in motion.
“It’s early days. It’s only day one but if I can play like I did today and keep the ball rolling in the red numbers I’ll be the one to be chased.
“I just need to keep the concentration going. I haven’t been in the frame for some years now.”
It was only Lyle’s second appearance on the Seniors Tour after he completed all four rounds at the US Seniors PGA Championship last month.
Merriman carded three birdies in his last five holes to finish on two under par, with England’s Gordon J Brand a shot further adrift.
Welshman Ian Woosnam, an amateur rival of Lyle’s in Shropshire county golf, is five shots off the pace after a two over par round of 74 after receiving a warm welcome from his home fans.
He said: “I didn’t play particularly well today. It’s quite tricky out there with a lot of cross winds. You’ve got to try to get your ball in the right position and I think two over par was about right really.
“It was great to see the crowds out there and see some old friends. They are obviously behind me and hopefully I can put a good score together for them tomorrow. You want to do your best for your home crowd but it can be difficult in front of them too. It’s not as good when you are not playing well.”