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Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Monty: Lyle's apology 'strange'

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Sandy Lyle's apology for leveling a four-year-old cheating accusation at Colin Montgomerie on the eve of the British Open apparently didn't do much to soothe Montgomerie's feelings.

In fact, it may have backfired completely, as other golfers and the head of the European Tour criticized Lyle's remarks on Tuesday and Wednesday.

"I am just trying to come down here and compete in The Open and my preparations have been slightly dented. I am not very happy about that at all," Montgomerie said, according to The Guardian. "It was a very, very strange apology to be honest with you and you will hear from me later on."

The issue was also raised at the Royal and Ancient's pre-championship news conference on Wednesday and chief executive Peter Dawson said he regretted the timing of the spat.

"It's a great shame when professional players like that get into those arguments," Dawson said. "I very much hope it will be sorted out as soon as possible."

Lyle, who was quoted in the Daily Mirror as saying Montgomerie appeared guilty of "a form of cheating" when he took a favorable drop after a rain delay at the 2005 Indonesian Open, tried to apologize Tuesday for bringing up the incident.

He said he made the remark out of frustration after being asked repeatedly about last year's Open, which he abandoned after 10 holes, and whether he felt that led to Montgomerie being chosen over him as 2010 Ryder Cup captain.

"I feel especially bad if I have jeopardized his preparation for the Open Championship," Lyle said Tuesday.

Then, when asked if he stood by his earlier comments, Lyle brought up the accusation again.

"I'm only going from what other people have said and it was a pretty poor drop," he said Tuesday. "And it was one of his mistakes. I didn't make him do that mistake, it was his mistake and it will probably live with him for the rest of his life; it'll be cropping up. The problem was, the drop wasn't close to where it should be. And of course on TV, it doesn't lie."

Montgomerie found Lyle's comments odd, according to The Guardian.

"It was a rather strange apology to be honest with you," Montgomerie said, according to the report. "I have read the apology, I am digesting it and I will let you know when I have digested it further."

European Tour chief executive George O'Grady also criticized Lyle's comments.

"The tour fully understands Sandy Lyle's disappointment at not being elected captain but deeply regrets his comments which are considered wholly inappropriate and ill-timed," O'Grady said in a statement issued Wednesday.

The incident in question took place at the 2005 Indonesian Open 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.

"The European Tour wishes to state the tournament committee debated the Jakarta situation extensively and made a full statement at that time," O'Grady said Wednesday. "The same tournament committee, at their meeting at the Dubai Desert Classic earlier this year, elected Colin Montgomerie as the 2010 Ryder Cup captain and persuaded him to take the job.

"The decision was greeted in Dubai with great acclaim by the tour members who felt the committee had chosen absolutely the right man for the job in Wales [next year]," O'Grady added.

While high-profile golfing figures such as Bernard Gallacher and Bernhard Langer also criticized Lyle for the remarks, he did have some support.

"Mud sticks, as Monty's case shows. That's why this has resurfaced," English golfer Gary Evans said. "I kicked up about Jakarta because for me it was a clear case where a proper refereeing decision needed to be made -- and wasn't. It was brushed under the carpet."

Information from Reuters and The Associated Press was used in this report.