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Rich Beem said he feared he wouldn't break 90 if he had finished. (Heathcote/Getty Images)

Major champions Beem and Lyle call it quits early

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Former Open Championship winner Sandy Lyle had enough of the brutal conditions Thursday morning, and walked in after going 11 over par in his first 10 holes. Former PGA champion Rich Beem was 12 over at the turn when he decided to stop.

SOUTHPORT, England (AP) - Royal Birkdale was so punishing for the opening round of the Open Championship that two major champions didn't even bother to finish.

Sandy Lyle won the 1985 Open and was making his 33rd start in golf's oldest championship. The 50-year-old Scot played only 10 holes in the rain and wind before he called it quits. He was 11 over par.

"It's just a difficult, difficult golf course," Lyle said after walking off the course. "I was out of whack with my golf game and I think it was best to call it a day."

Former PGA Championship winner Rich Beem, already worn out from a busy summer schedule that included qualifying for this championship, was 12 over at the turn when he decided he was better off not playing.

"I'm fine,"
Beem said when reached on his cell phone. "I've played a lot of golf and I'm fried. If I had continued, I don't think I would have broken 90. I said very gracefully to the guys on the ninth green, 'I'm sorry, but I can't continue.' It was ugly."

Royal & Ancient Secretary Peter Dawson said he was disappointed Lyle had withdrawn. Making it worse was Mark Brown of New Zealand was on site as the next alternate in case someone couldn't start.

"I think professional golfers should complete the round," Dawson said.

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Lyle was looking toward his first Senior British Open next week at Royal Troon, fearful if he kept playing he might hurt himself.

"I felt I could do myself more harm than good," Lyle said. "It could take three weeks to recover from this. I want to make a good start for the seniors so I want to get back up north and get things sorted out."

Although Lyle was already 4 over after six holes, his tale of woe really started on the shortest hole on the course, the 178-yard seventh, where he made a double bogey during a stretch of losing 10 shots in six holes.

"I left a ball in a bunker from a very short distance," he said. "I left it plugged in the face and had to come out backwards. That put the nail in the coffin for me right there, that double bogey.

"The next hole I hit my third shot to the green from about 120 yards. My ball landed right on Graeme Storm's ball. His ball went about a foot from the hole and mine went off about 30 yards into the rough and was almost unplayable. So that was another double bogey."

The ninth was no better when Lyle had to hack out of the rough, then went over the back of the green.

Three players wound up breaking par. Robert Allenby, Graeme McDowell and Rocco Mediate shared the lead at 1-under 69, although the good scores came from the afternoon when the rain subsided and the wind eased.

Lyle said he had not seen conditions like this so early in an Open.

"Not this early in the morning and it's usually a bit warmer," he said. "It was just constant rain all the time. It was difficult keeping my hands dry and, of course, I wear glasses, so that didn't help. It's a brutal golf course."

This is the second time Lyle has walked off the course at an Open at Birkdale. He was disqualified in 1991 when he fired a 79 in the first round and fired his ball out of bounds at the 18th on the Friday.

"I didn't know I was out of bounds until I got there," he said. "So, as I was way over the cut line, I said I wasn't going back and just finished there."

Beem struggled with putting in the wind, and two days of practice brought no relief. He also had a penalty stroke on the second hole when his ball moved as he was settling over the ball.

"I don't know how I ever lived in El Paso," Beem said.

He qualified for the Open over 36 holes outside Detroit after the Buick Open, and said he would do it again. The only thing he would change is his preparations. He arrived Monday afternoon from the John Deere Classic.

"It's the greatest golf known to man," Beem said. "It was just difficult."

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