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Sandy Lyle in danger of losing Tour card

Former major winner Sandy Lyle accepts he may have to rely on invitations to play on next season's European Tour if he loses full playing rights for the first time in 26 years.

The 45-year-old Briton, winner of the 1985 British Open and 1988 U.S. Masters, will lose his exemption if he does not climb back up Europe's all-time money list in his final two tournaments of the season.

"I'll just have to rely on invitations unless I can perform well enough in my last couple of tournaments," said Lyle who last week fell out of the top 40 in the all-time money list. The top 40 qualify automatically for European Tour events.

Lyle lies 14,500 euros behind the new number 40, England's David Howell.

With a first prize of 166,660 euros, this week's Dutch Open, which starts on Thursday at the Hilversumsche course, therefore offers Lyle a lifeline.

Three times a European number one, he is aware that his slide to 142nd on this year's European order of merit has been the biggest factor in a slump that leaves him in danger of losing his European card for the first time since 1977.

But he also feels the size of modern-day prize funds, which are much bigger than in his heyday, is relevant.

"Somebody who has not even won a tournament can have three years on tour and win almost as much as the kind of money I made in the '80s winning 20-odd tournaments," said Lyle.

Lyle's biggest career cheque of 253,785 euros came only last year when he finished tied third in the Dunhill Links Championship.

Lyle is aware that one good finish in his last two events of this season -- he will also play the Madrid Open in two weeks' time -- will rescue him.

Otherwise he will have to be at the whim of sponsors and promoters next season, having decided not to go to tour qualifying school.

"I'm not losing any sleep about it," he added. "It's not out of the question that I can still do it because the difference in getting a good or bad result often has only been just two or three holes. I've been a little bit inconsistent."

Lyle is pitched against an array of players fighting to keep their tour cards in Hilversum, with only three events left for the strugglers.

Defending champion Tobias Dier of Germany will try to rediscover the touch that earned him a European Tour record-equalling round of 60 in last year's tournament.

Heavy rain has been forecast for the Dutch tournament, which is normally played in the summer but was switched to October this year.

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