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Sandy Lyle compares Tiger Woods' approach to links golf to Tom Watson's. (Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
Sandy Lyle compares Tiger Woods' approach to links golf to Tom Watson's. (Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)

Notebook: Lyle expects third straight win by Woods

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Tiger Woods' mastery of links golf means that anything is possible, says 1985 champion Sandy Lyle. Plus, Jonathan Byrd is overjoyed to have earned a last-minute spot and Gregory Havret hopes to fare better than Jean Van de Velde.

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland (PA) -- Former Open Championship winner Sandy Lyle will not be surprised if Tiger Woods wins the Claret Jug for the third time in a row at Carnoustie this week.

Woods, 31, is aiming to become only the second modern-day golfer to win the tournament in three successive years, following in the footsteps of Peter Thomson, who achieved the feat between 1955 and 1957.

"For someone who has never really grown up on a links course, Tiger's ability to play links courses has never failed to amaze me," said Lyle, who captured the famous old trophy in 1985 at Sandwich. "His course management is so good. He generally comes over earlier and plays the Irish courses like Tom Watson used to do and he adapts very quickly to links and his record proves that.

"I always thought it was possible (that someone could win the Open three times in a row)," he explained. "When you get someone like a Tiger or a Tom Watson, when he was playing well, they just seem to perform so well when they play in the Open Championship, even though they play on a different course every year.

"If you had asked me if an individual could win a major by so many shots, I would say you were pulling my leg," he added. "But when Tiger is winning the Masters by, I think, 12 shots and the U.S. Open by 15, that is more of an unbelievable record than winning the Open three years in a row."

Carnoustie was criticized in 1999 for its toughness, but after stepping off the 18th tee on Sunday, Lyle remarked upon the improvements made for this year's competition.

"The course is very good, playing very fair and everything that was said about the course eight years ago has been taken to heart and it has been sorted out," he said. "It is long in places and there is a run on the fairways, but the greens are very good.

"It will be a test, but it is an open competition and the course could suit a number of players," he added. "It brings a lot more players in to the game rather than it being so tight that you are down to a handful of potential winners.

"The wind will be a factor, but there will be a lot of big hitters out here who hit the ball a million miles with no nerves, so we will see," he said. "But in general, course conditions are as good as you can get."

BYRD IS DELIGHTED: Jonathan Byrd could not hide his excitement at qualifying for the Open Championship after birdieing three of his final five holes to win the John Deere Classic on Sunday. The victory, the third of his career, earned Byrd a spot at Carnoustie this week as well as at next year's Masters.

"I haven't played in the British yet and every time I watch it on TV, I just can't wait to get over there," he said. "I just love the thought of playing that type of golf.

"I haven't played The Masters since I think 2004, so obviously that's a sweet thought as well," he added. "I said I wanted to go out and play today just for today, so I just enjoyed it and was able to take the challenge and the opportunity and play really well coming down the stretch."

HAVRET QUALIFIES FOR OPEN: France's new Scottish Open champion Gregory Havret will finally play his first major championship this week -- on the same Carnoustie course where compatriot Jean Van de Velde blew a three-shot lead on the final hole in 1999.

The 30-year-old, who beat world No. 3 Phil Mickelson in a playoff at Loch Lomond on Sunday, earned an Open Championship place with his win.

"I was at a friend's house in 1999 when Jean had his nightmare. It was crazy to see, playing so well and putting so well for 71 holes and then finishing like that," he said. "But it can happen. Each time we play the Dunhill (Links Championship) tournament there, we think of Jean and I'm sure I will this week too."

Havret, $1 million richer for his win, forgot to ask Mickelson to sign a glove for charity at the end of their round.

"I will ask him next week," Havret said with a smile. "In the last group on Sunday!"

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