Caddygate incidents at Royal Lytham
BY Bruce Young | European PGA Tour | 2012 The Open Championship | 17 Jul 2012
One of the more enduring memories of Open Championships at Royal Lytham & St Annes came in 1974 when South African Gary Player prevailed in a dramatic finish over Englishman Peter Oosterhuis.
I caddied in the event that year and as my boss had finished earlier I headed out to watch the closing stages of the Championship.
The eventual winning margin was four but an incident at the par four 17th appeared for some time as if it might make Player’s task a little less comfortable than it actually ended up being.
The hectic scene to the left of the 71st hole that year, where players and others hunted for the ball of Player who at that point had a six shot lead over Oosterhuis, sticks in the memory.
The rough to the left of the par four 17th was thick and although only maybe ten yards from the hole Player’s ball appeared to be lost despite the efforts of many. Player was on hands and knees at times aware of the dangers a double or triple bogey might potentially create. Just as time was about to be called the ball turned up and Player made bogey to retain a huge margin.
The finding of the ball came under scrutiny by many and was then and since analysed on television over and over again but it was perhaps more a case of English patriotism hoping against hope for an English victory or any real concern about any question marks over the location of the ball as time was about to be called.
The other feature of the hunt was Player’s caddie, the black American Rabbit Dyer. Dyer, a larger than life and colourful character who was even miked for sound during various stages of the event that year, became quite the talking point throughout the week.
Dyer’s role in the finding of the ball would also come under question but to be fair to him there was no real evidence of any such misdemeanour and he was perhaps unfairly treated.
Dyer was a relatively late replacement for Englishman Alfie Fyles who had been on the bag of Gary Player in many of his British victories over the previous six years or so and was expecting to be Player’s caddie that year also.
Fyles was informed late in the piece that Player had decided to bring his American caddie to the Open and knowing Fyles back then I can recall the disappointment in him and in the other British caddies to his replacement.
Whether Player had brought Dyer to Britain as a statement against the anti apartheid movement whose wrath he so unfairly copped for much of his early golfing career or whether he felt Dyer was the better man for the job will never really be known but the fact is the combination proved successful that week.
Fyles would, though, get the last laugh. The very next year at Carnoustie, Fyles was on the bag of Tom Watson when the American won the first of his eight major championships. Watson and Fyles combined for four more Open Championship victories.
17 years later another incident at Royal Lytham & St Annes took much of the gloss off the victory of David Duval’s only major championship victory.
Welshman Ian Woosnam began the final round tied with eventual winner David Duval. Woosnam had been experimenting with another driver on the range that day but unbeknowns to him his caddie, Myles Byrne, had forgotten to put the club back in the locker room, apparently distracted by getting their tee time wrong and rushing to the first tee.
The par three first at Lytham is unique in Open Championships and when Woosnam all but holed his tee shot and took the lead it appeared he could well go on and win.
As he arrived at the second tee however he was informed of the fact that the driver was still in the bag. The result a two shot penalty which despite a great effort by Woosnam to stay in contention proved too much of a burden to overcome. Woosnam tied for third four shots behind Duval.
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