The Masters 2013: Sandy Lyle is still an Augusta contender after all these years

A quarter of a century after landing his first Masters title, Lyle is in the hunt for another Green Jacket –  proving he’s not in Augusta just for the champions’ dinner or to sell golf attire,  as he explains to Kevin Garside

Sandy Lyle is dripping in nostalgia, the silver tug of a 25th anniversary dragging him back into that bunker on the 18th to churn through endless reruns of the seven-iron that won the Masters in 1988. Though he never tires of the sobriquet “Masters champion”, Lyle, now 55, has reached saturation point on all things past and would prefer to look at what might be when he tees up on Thursday – even the wild idea of another Green Jacket.

Quite by coincidence, Lyle launches his own clothing line at Augusta this week, a wardrobe for the older golfer. Move over Poults? “I don’t know that I’ll be a challenge to Ian Poulter. A few golf courses in Scotland are going to stock the clothes,” Lyle said. “It all started by accident as a result of the hats I was wearing. They looked ugly and sweaty after a couple of days, especially here in the Florida heat. I managed to sort some out with a company called Phoenix. It turned out the main guy was once a young pro from the Aberdeen area. I went from the hats to the shirts using the new stay-dry technology. He was interested in launching a clothes line so we designed a logo and I’ll be unveiling it at the Masters and wearing it for the next two years.”

Lyle has been a Champions Tour regular for the past five seasons. The standard is sharp, good enough almost to yield a major winner at Turnberry four years ago when a 59-year-old Tom Watson had a putt for the Claret Jug. Lyle has yet to claim his maiden win among the America vets, but is happy with his game and will go to the first tee on Thursday with a glint in his eye, if not outright conviction that he might win.

“It’s a very competitive environment. There are some great names. Bernhard Langer is there every week knocking at the door, Freddie Couples, Tom Lehman. The scoring is remarkable, mind-boggling really. Scores of around 15 or 16 under par over three rounds of golf are winning tournaments. They are not short courses either: most are over 7,000 yards. The standard is PGA Tour high. Langer is shooting an average of 69 every week.”

Those who think it beyond parody that Lyle could trouble the scorers at any point this week might wish to cast their minds back to 2009 when he came home on Friday in 32, better than any in the field, to make the cut and eventually tie for 20th with the likes of Poulter and the teenage Rory McIlroy. “I was contending right to the last day. If I’d shot a decent final round I could have finished top five.

“I’m not coming as a ceremonial golfer. It all depends on how you fire up the first four or five holes on Thursday. That sequence has always been pretty crucial to me. You can kick yourself and your whole Masters collapses around you. I’ve had a lot of double-bogeys at the first, sixes and sevens at the second. And before you know it the bogeys are multiplying. I really need to get off to a fast start and stay alive over the outward nine or 10 holes. Hopefully, I can get some momentum going.”

Lyle’s landmark return coincides with the 50th anniversary of Jack Nicklaus’s first win, details worthy of a toast at the Masters dinner tomorrow night, an evening in which Lyle feels privileged to participate. “They look after the past champions very well, with letters, information, gifts etc. At the dinner everyone is on the same level. It doesn’t matter if you have five wins, three or whatever. We all wear one Green Jacket that represents a Masters champion. There are no egos. It is over quite early, 8.30 or 9pm and everybody goes home happy.”

Though Lyle won his first major, the Open Championship, three years before his Green Jacket, it is the Masters triumph for which he is remembered most. “It’s a big thing, especially in America. Twenty-five years has gone very quickly. It’s nice to be recognised as a Masters champion. I shall take that feeling to my grave. They don’t give these tournaments to you. You have to work extremely hard to get one.

“I know I was mentally flat and exhausted after the Masters win. It was such a high-pressure week, maintaining a lead from the first round right through to the 18th. I won the week before as well [the Greater Greensboro Open], which brought all the media attention even before we started. This is what it’s like at the majors. I didn’t know then that it would be my last major, but one is better than none, and I of course won the Open in 1985.”

If not you again this year, Sandy, then who? Woods perhaps? “I marvel at what he has accomplished, 70-odd wins plus the majors. If you’d asked me a few years ago if anyone would come along and win a major by 12 or 15 shots I would have said no. If you win by four it’s unbelievable. I didn’t think it was possible to win a major by that amount. That gets your attention, especially as a player who has played in these things and won a couple. His confidence is high this year. You know he is going to be working his nuts off to be ready. I hate to think how many practice rounds he’s played on the quiet. His putting is good and he knows the course. If he gets one I can see him getting two or three and pushing Jack [Nicklaus] for that record.”

Lyle also has a fancy for McIlroy, whose genius he first came across six years ago. “I was invited to play with the 2007 Walker Cup team and maybe pass on a few tips. After a few holes I asked them who was the main man, the kingpin. They didn’t even scratch their heads. They just pointed at this little fluffy-haired kid. He didn’t look like he could be much of a threat. He did the odd good thing and turned pro the following week. He had about three or four weeks to win enough money to get his card for the following year and did. That got my attention. And, of course, a few years later he pulls off the US Open by eight shots. And now he’s won two.

“He will have his fights and battles. He is under the microscope all the time. He has to perform, but he seems to be dedicated and I expect we will see some fireworks in the years to come. He has the game, he’s had the feeling of almost winning the Masters. It didn’t quite come off but it was only one tee shot really, and hitting the tree. That could easily have ricocheted right and would have made an easy five, possibly four. I like to think he will be there again on Sunday night.”

And with Lyle’s final Masters tip, there is heartening news for the soon-to-be-40 Lee Westwood, whose search for a first major continues. “Lee has another eight to 10 years to pull one off. Some win early but others, like Ben Hogan, don’t start until their late thirties. Lee has done the right thing moving to America. He has done away with coaches and is doing his own thing, which at his stage is probably a good thing because he’s not going out there with a multitude of thoughts and feelings. His short game has always looked a little flaky but he’s out there getting more comfortable and if he starts holing putts on good greens I can see him contending for a few years yet.”

Life & times: Sandy Lyle 

February 9, 1958: Born, Shrewsbury (Has represented Scotland throughout his career)

1979: Won his first European Tour title, the Jersey Open, aged just 21.

1985: Wins The Open Championship (above) by one shot at Royal St George’s from America’s Payne Stewart.

1988: Wins US Masters in Augusta by one shot, beating off American Mark Calcavecchia

1992: Had won 18 European Tour titles by this time, but only has the European Seniors Tour title to his name since. He is tied 12th for all-time tour victories.

Suggested Topics
News
Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’
tv

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

News
John Moore inspired this Coca Cola Christmas advert
people

News
people

Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films
books

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site this morning

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
A Rutherford Raiders shirt with the PornHub sponsorship
football

Arts and Entertainment
Charlie Sheen said he would
tv

Charlie Sheen could be set to revive his role as a hedonistic womaniser

Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Radcliffe gives a strong performance in Horns
film

Review: Alexandre Aja's film is a Twin Peaks-style mystery

News
Apple CEO Timothy Cook
people
News
i100
Life and Style
Jamie Oliver’s version of Jollof rice led thousands of people to post angry comments on his website
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Vividly drawn: Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh’s ‘Mr Turner’
film

Review: Mike Leigh's biopic is a rambling, rich character study

Arts and Entertainment
glastonbury
Arts and Entertainment
Shelley Duvall stars in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining
film
Arts and Entertainment
Shock of the news: Jake Gyllenhaal in ‘Nightcrawler’
film
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes