Lyle apologizes for bringing up incident

Updated: July 14, 2009, 6:31 PM ET
By Jason Sobel | ESPN.com

TURNBERRY, Scotland -- It wouldn't be an Open Championship without a little controversy drummed up by the British tabloids, and the latest tiff involves two of this country's most heralded golfers.

Tuesday, 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.

Earlier this year, Montgomerie was named as Europe's next Ryder Cup captain, beating out Lyle for the role.

When asked whether walking off the course after just 10 holes at Royal Birkdale during the opening round of last year's Open due to the cold conditions may have cost him the job, Lyle invoked the 2005 incident, in which many players accused Monty of bending the rules after a weather delay at the Indonesia Open.

"That is far worse than someone pulling out because of sore knuckles," Lyle said on Monday at Turnberry, site of this week's Open. "You have Monty dropping the ball badly -- that's what you would call a form of cheating. If anything was going to be held against Monty, you would think, 'Yeah, well that's a case where he was breaking the rules.' And there have been other times where he has been called in to see videos."

The back page headline in Tuesday's edition of The Scottish Sun blared, "You're a Cheat Monty."

Tuesday, Lyle said his comments, made last week, 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 lie. He was found innocent by tournament rules officials, but later donated his fourth-place prize money to charity.

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 before a packed media room to read a statement and take questions.

"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."

Prior to last week's Scottish Open, Montgomerie was asked whether Lyle is being considered as a vice captain for next year's festivities in Wales.

"Good question," he said. "I met with Sandy yesterday, we had a chat. And I haven't decided as to who or what, depending on who makes the team and who doesn't make the team, and we'll select that vice captain sometime during the qualification system. But I haven't made up my mind."

Jason Sobel is a golf writer for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Jason Sobel | email

Golf Editor, ESPN.com
Jason Sobel, who joined ESPN in 1997, earned four Sports Emmy awards as a member of ESPN's Studio Production department. He became ESPN.com's golf editor in July 2004.