Dyson picks himself up to set sights on Ryder Cup

In his hour of need, when some in the golfing world were questioning his integrity, Simon Dyson discovered who his true friends really were.

Yorkshire golfer Simon Dyson. Picture: Getty Images.

They weren’t the players who pointed accusing fingers or avoided him on the driving range.

They weren’t the Tour officials and match referees who started trawling through his records and scrutinising every move he had made, to see if his error in judgment at last year’s BMW Masters in Shanghai was a one-off or a dishonest trend.

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Dyson’s true friends were those who who had known him long enough, friends and family who never doubted his honour.

When he looked into the eyes of world No 1 Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald, Sergio Garcia and Jamie Donaldson, they met Dyson’s gaze with a confidence that served as a reassuring pat on the back. And how desperately the Malton man – who was consumed by regret and self-doubt – needed their support.

His golfing world collapsed around him on October 25 last year in the second round of the BMW Masters.

The Yorkshireman was seen to have touched the line of his putt after marking his ball. He was promptly disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard because he failed to acknowledge the error and add a two-shot penalty.

In the grand scheme of sporting indiscretions Dyson’s interference with the line of his putt was only a minor infringement.

Footballers seek to gain an advantage frequently with a tugged shirt in the penalty area or a dive to the surface from the merest hint of contact.

Cricketers verbally abuse each other at the crease and rub dirt into the ball to give themselves an edge over the batsman.

The line between right and wrong might often be blurred in other sports but golf is different.

Golf is a game of etiquette and of clearly-defined rules, where the players are supposed to call punishment on themselves if they stray over the line.

Dyson, an upstanding member of the European Tour family for a decade, was suddenly poisonous.

The questions about his integrity began that day and didn’t cease. Those six weeks before the Tour’s disciplinary panel met to decide his fate felt like an eternity.

Dyson was found guilty of a serious rule breach and given a two-month ban by the European Tour, suspended for 18 months, and fined £30,000. His hitherto good behaviour was considered as the panel labelled the offence a “momentary aberration on his part, not a premeditated act of cheating”.

The money was a drop in a water hazard for a professional golfer, but the damage done bordered on irreperable.

That he approaches the 12-month anniverary of the incident having kept his head down, his nose out of trouble and his golf game in good shape, owes much, Dyson says, to those closest to him.

“It was a tough time,” Dyson tells The Yorkshire Post.

“It was horrible when it happened. But my family and friends have been absolutely brilliant.

“If it hadn’t have been for them I don’t know what I would have done because I felt really low.

“But there are two people that I can’t say enough about and who I will always owe a debt to – my manager Chubby Chandler and my wife Lyndsey.

“Both of them were absolutely brilliant through it all and I will forever be in their debt.”

The support of people like McIlroy was also critical in his recovery. McIlroy may now operate in a different stratosphere to Dyson, but he shared many a tee-time with the seasoned campaigner in his formative professional years.

“The people who know me the best; Jamie Donaldson, Luke Donald, Sergio Garcia, Rory McIlroy, are fine with it,” says Dyson.

“They all know it was just a massive one-off. I’ve been on tour 15 years and I’ve never even come close to having something like that happen to me.

“It was just a one-off, it was a rush of blood. I totally regret doing it but like I’ve said before, I didn’t honestly know.

“When the referee was showing me the video, I didn’t know what he was showing me. And I absolutely, 100 per cent swear on my daughter’s life that that is the truth.”

On the doubters, who Dyson accepts might never go away, he adds: “Everyone’s got their own opinion of it.

“There’s been some people having niggles at me and little digs, but listen, that’s up to them.

“If that’s how they feel and how they want to do it, then I’m not going to do anything about it.

“I’ve got over it, some people might not have but hey, that’s their problem, not mine.

“I’ve got over it, totally. You can tell because I’m having a nice year and I’ve obviously clearly forgotten about it.

“If I was feeling guilty and something was lingering over me, I wouldn’t have been playing that well.

“We don’t even talk about it in our house any more because it’s in the past, and we don’t focus on things in the past, you can’t live your life like that.”

To justify his claim that he is playing guilt-free golf, Dyson is enjoying his best season without actually winning a tournament since 2007.

He has achieved five top-10 finishes, the first of which came just days before his appearance in front of the Tour’s disciplinary panel in December, and the last being his now customary run at the Dutch Open title, a tournament he has won three times.

Dyson has climbed back into the top 100 in the world and sits 27th on the order of merit. He is a certainty to take part in the Tour’s lucrative four-week play-off series that begins in China on Thursday week and ends in Dubai for the top 60 players next month.

The second of those tournaments is a return to the BMW Masters, the place of his all-time low, where he hopes to “rectify some things” as he says, with a wry smile.

Atonement in Shanghai may be the next step on the journey to what remains the ultimate ambition for the 36-year-old, to play in a Ryder Cup.

Europe’s recent success reignited that drive, particularly as the man who struck the winning shot – Donaldson – is one of his closest friends.

Donaldson – who turns 39 tomorrow – is two years Dyson’s senior and a shining example of what the Yorkshireman can still accomplish.

“Jamie played brilliantly at Gleneagles,” says Dyson, who is perhaps unfortunate that his best golf in recent seasons has been played in non-Ryder Cup years.

“It ignites the fire in my belly when I see a good mate of mine doing what he did.

“It happened a few years ago when Graeme McDowell got in for the first time. I got very close with G-Mac and when he made his first team I was like: ‘God, I should be in the running to play that’. And I nearly made the next one at Celtic Manor. So hopefully what Jamie has achieved will have the same impact.”

Off the course, Dyson has never been happier. His dark days were lit up by a newborn daughter, who helped keep all the doubts at bay.

On the course, he is steadily rebuilding his reputation.