Sandy Lyle says his only goal this week at Augusta National is to make the cut.
It was, of course, 30 years ago that Lyle became the first British player to win The Masters, courtesy of an iconic blast from the fairway trap at 18 to the back of the green, where his ball trickled down the slope, only for him to then knock in the birdie putt to slip into a green jacket.
It has been a magical moment of Masters history ever since and, walking off the 18th green at Augusta National this afternoon, the Scot doffed his cap to the gallery as they rose to their feet in appreciation of a former champion.
Whilst he's looking forward to celebrating the anniversary this week, Lyle insists the job at Augusta isn’t getting any easier.
“It’s a long course and I’ve had 30 years of playing it,” the 60-year-old told bunkered.co.uk. “I know the course by now. I’m only playing nine each day in practice because it gets longer every year.
“When you look at the TV stats and you see what the big boys are hitting for their second shots,a dn then you see what I’m hitting, it’s a different game. I’m coming in with 6-iron or 5-iron and they're hitting pitching wedges a lot of the time. It’s not easy but that’s the way it is. Time goes on. The course is long and I’m going in the other direction.”
Memories of his win in 1988 haven’t faded. He says he remembers running on empty having won the week before at the Greater Greensboro Open, and that he had been given late starting times all week at Augusta. “That wasn’t something to really moan about, but the course was very crispy. There was a lot of mental strain to keep everything going. I ended up making birdie on the holes I wasn’t expecting to birdie. I made birdie from 16 from above the hole, a position I didn’t want to be in, and another from the bunker at 18, so it was crazy. You just had to hang in there.”
Fast forward 30 years, Lyle says he’s been pleased to see the amount of coverage that moment in British golf history has had in the last few weeks. “There’s definitely interest. I’ve done a lot of interviews, tried to do every one, and I expect to speak to a few more people this week.”
Lyle’s exemption for The Open runs out this year and he confirmed today that he will not continue to play (even if he finishes inside the qualification criteria for the following year). The Masters, though, remains an open book.
“It’s been a long stint but there are still a few years left, in this tournament anyway.
"I’ll do it day-by-day, year-by-year and hour-by-hour, just to see. If I’ve got a bit of an injury and I feel as though I can’t play anywhere near my best, I might pull out that year. Another year, I might be feeling good and healthy and lose a stone in weight and so then I’ll go for it.
“A few years ago, I remember Woosie telling me he was done - but then his wife kicked him in the nuts and said, 'You better get out there and play' and that’s what he did!”
Depressingly, Lyle will mark the 30th anniversary of his Masters victory as the lone Scot in the field. No other player from the 'Home of Golf' has made the grade. The last time that was happened was in 2010.
“It’s just sometimes the way it is,” he says, shrugging his shoulders as if searching for the answer we’re all looking for. “I have, in the past, been asked more than once about being the only Scottish player here. You know, it might be good to make some money at the bookies by having ‘Lyle as top Scot’. Put a pound on it.”
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