The Byrnes of Bray are still Ireland's No 1 caddie clan ­ despite Ian Woosnam's extra-club cock-up at the Open.

The English tabloids had a field day with the "Irish caddie"Caddie Myles Byrne might be a scapegoat after taking a roasting from the Welsh wizard for failing to notice the extra club in his bag, but he's still tops this side of the Irish Sea.

Just ask Myles' seven brothers, three sisters and Ryder Cup hero Christy O'Connor Jnr.

With three professional golf caddies in the family ­- brothers Matthew, Dermot and Brian have all made a living on the European Tour - the Byrnes are a highly respected bunch in golf circles.

And O'Connor Jnr was one of the first to come out in support of the Bray man after he had been lashed by Woosnam. Byrne's brother Matthew helped O'Connor to a place in golfing history at 1989 Ryder Cup.

Faced with a daunting shot over water in his singles match with Fred Couples, O'Connor never got a chance to think about club selection as Byrne put a two-iron in his hand and looked on as his boss fired a wondershot to the 18th green.

The ball finished just a few feet from the pin, giving O'Connor Jnr a vital one-hole win that gave Europe the point needed to retain the Ryder Cup.

O'Connor said: "Matthew did a brilliant job for me, especially in '89 when we won the Ryder Cup. He helped me a lot that day and I know he comes from a fantastic family of wonderful caddies that are very well regarded throughout the game.

"What happened on Sunday was a shame for Woosie, but these things happen in golf sometimes. Guys fiddle with clubs on the range and someone thinks someone else has taken the club out and you have this situation.

"You tend to put a lot of trust in caddies and but in the end it's all the player's responsibility, from marking the card to checking the bag."

Although Matthew Byrne has since retired from the scene as a European Tour caddie, three of his seven brothers have gone on to make a living at the hardest job in golf.

While Myles shot to fame for al the wrong reasons on Sunday, Brian looks after the needs of Dean Robertson while Dermot totes the bag for Stephen Gallacher, a nephew of former Ryder Cup captain Bernard Gallacher. Myles has only recently returned to the European Tour after a two-year lay-off that included a stint on a building site doing the most responsible jobs going ­ guiding a crane operator from the ground with a walkie-talkie.

Another Irish caddie on tour, Paul Lawrie's bagman Colin Byrne, (no relation) also paid tribute to his colleague.

"My old boss, Greg Turner always said that the collective IQ tally in the caddie-shack far outweighed that in the locker-room," he said. "Myles always had plenty of grey matter and was never seen on tour without a copy of a broadsheet cryptic crossword. He usually has it finished by midday too"

A brilliant reader of greens, Byrne caddied for former Ryder Cup star Peter Baker before romance made him decide to stay nearer to home, resulting in a two-year break from the fairways. After working in the booming Irish building industry he got a late call up to help Woosnam at the start of the season and hasn't looked back.

Having first planned to play only a reduced schedule, Woosnam passed on his regular caddie to struggling Spaniard Jose Marie Olazabal. But the Welshman's fine early season form, which included a fourth place in the Dubai Desert Classic, made him change his mind and play more tournaments.

Byrne found himself employed on a regular basis by the man from Oswestry and went on to guide the 1991 Masters champion to a final round 64 in the Murphy's Irish Open and joint second place at the recent Smurfit European Open at the K Club.

Yesterday (Monday) Woosnam and Byrne had put the disappointment of Lytham behind them and were working together in an exhibition match in Oslo, while brother's Brian and Dermot were in Holland for the Dutch Open with employers Dean Robertson and Stephen Gallacher.

Although he was upset and took the blame for Woosnam's two-shot penalty, chain-smoking Byrne was able to put it in perspective later.

He said: "Walking off the 18th green, I gave Woosie's glove to a young man in a wheelchair. And when I saw the way his face lit up, I realised my job wasn't all that important."

His family were taking it in their stride too, despite having to field dozens of phone calls from the media.

One of 12 children (the full list is Paul, Matthew, Liam, Brian, Myles, Dermot, Conor, Tracy, Nicky, Teresa, Jacqueline and Susan), Myles had not been in contact with his family about Sunday's mishap.

His sister Teresa said: "He hasn't been on. It's jut one of those things that happens in any job. We're not that upset about it. It just happened and life goes on. We'll have a chat about it when he gets back but we don't know when that will be yet."

The Byrne boys learnt their trade at Woodbrook Golf Club, not far from their home in Bray.

But Woodbrook caddymaster Mick Kirwan was showing no sympathy for Woosnam yesterday.

He said: "The first thing a player learns from the time he is a teenager is that he can only have 14 clubs in his bag. That goes for everyone, amateur or professional and I don't blame Myles for what happened."