It was 20 years ago yesterday that Augusta belonged to Sandy Lyle, the day the Scot produced one of the most dramatic shots in the tournament's history en route to claiming his Green Jacket. Yesterday, as if to mark the occasion, some of that magic returned to the 50-year-old as once again the name Lyle lit up the leaderboard. At least for a while.
While Tiger Woods strung together a succession of pars to the turn, Lyle rattled off three birdies. There was a bogey too, but another birdie on the 12th left Lyle with only Justin Rose to look up to.
It could not last and slowly Lyle's touch began to desert him. There were three more bogeys, at the 15th and 16th, and then on the last as well. It sent him into the club house on level par – the same mark as Woods – and, despite the late slump, made it another day to remember for the only Scot in the field.
"I've had fun today. I've had an annoying finish but other than that, level par for an old champion is not too bad," said Lyle, whose son caddied for him.
"I played some pretty tidy golf and can't really complain. I'm disappointed obviously with the finish, but I'm hitting the ball the way I want to and it does help to have that little bit of knowledge. I often look at younger ones taking on certain shots and think to myself - you'll learn!"
Back in 1988, level with Mark Calcavecchia with one to play, Lyle drove into the fairway bunker but then hit a seven-iron from the sand that landed on the slope beyond the flag and trickled back down to 10 feet.
After sinking the putt to become the first of four successive British winners – Nick Faldo the following two years and then Ian Woosnam in 1991 – Lyle went into a merry jig of joy.
"You dream about it maybe as a boy growing up," he said. "You need a four or a three to win the Masters and there's my situation right there in front of me. That's a memory that will always stick with me and also with people who watched at that time, even back in Britain at sort of one o'clock in the morning. The drama of having a two-shot lead after nine holes, taking a double-bogey at the 12th hole, then not to birdie the par-five holes.
"It looked a grim for a while. And not many people have done it, making birdie out of the bunker. There have been only a few who have made birdie on the last hole to win. It used to be Arnold Palmer and that was it, but then I did it and there has since been Mark O'Meara and Mickelson."
So does it all feel two decades ago? "No, it doesn't at all," replied Lyle. "It's just gone very, very quick. To win the Masters, it brings a hair on the back of your neck when you think about it. It's scary that I've been playing now for almost 30-odd years. There are a couple of other shots that come to mind. The fourth hole I was in an awkward position, just over the back of the green about 10 or 15 yards near the tee, and not looking good. You know from experience that your chances of getting up and down from that spot are like about one in 40. I turned that from double-bogey into a two by holing a chip shot.
"Then there was my second shot to the ninth. I hit it about two feet from the hole. I remember seeing Greg Norman making bogey and he was only like 90 yards from the green – I was about 150."
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