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You Might Not Know '88 Masters Champ Sandy Lyle, But You Should

Sandy Lyle
Mark Alexander
1988 Masters champion Sandy Lyle at Skibo Castle in Scotland.

The defining moment of your career was the fairway bunker shot you hit to inside 10 feet on the 72nd hole of the 1988 Masters, which helped you clinch the victory. Are you still impressed you pulled it off?

I still enjoy talking about it, even though it’s more than 25 years on. It’s great fun to be known for one of those moments in golf history. Obviously it was a very important shot, but the way I finished it off—making the birdie putt to win the Masters—was just unbelievable. People love talking to me about it.

Do you hear about it often?

I could be on the other side of the world, and somebody remembers that bunker shot. People always remind me about it in pro-ams. They say, “You were the one who hit that bunker shot. How hard was it?” I’ll say, “It was sheer torture at the time.”

So you were aware of the magnitude of the moment?

I felt I had to make a par to be in a playoff. That’s all I was thinking about. I was happy with the yardage [147 yards] and the lie. The ball went off. I had to run out of the bunker to see it come down. I thought it would be a foot from the hole, a tap-in, but there was still quite a distance left. [Lyle made the putt and won by a stroke.]

How did you celebrate the win?

All week at the Holiday Inn where I was staying there was noise and discos every night. I thought, “When we get to the hotel tonight, we’ll go to the bar and lap it up.” I burst through the doors and there were two people there!

Celebrating your Masters win at the Holiday Inn bar? You party animal!

[Laughs] Everybody had gone, there was no atmosphere at all. The one time I’m ready to let it rip, nothing.

How do you think the course compares with 1988?

The greens haven’t changed much. But the tees have, and the bunkers have changed quite considerably.

Are you happy with the changes?

They’ve done a pretty good job. They’ve made it a lot tighter, a lot harder to get it in the right position off the tee. When I played in the 1980s, it was a shorter course, more open. Maybe we had some short shots into the par 5s, but it didn’t really make it any easier. You still used every club in your bag, and you had to lay up to certain positions.

What would it take for you to win the Masters this year, at 56?

I still have a bit of a chance. I’m still long enough to score well. I’ve made the cut a few times in the last several years. What do I need? A bit of luck, and to get off to a good start.

You’re a Scot, so which win was bigger—your 1985 British Open win, or the green jacket three years later?

They’re both pretty valuable, but the Masters win, no doubt. That logo, that green jacket—it just hits people.

You’re a two-time major winner and a 2012 World Golf Hall of Fame inductee. But you’re not that well-known in the States. Why?

I haven’t pushed myself to get my name out there. I’m not one to sell myself. I let my clubs do the talking over here: six wins in the U.S. and the Masters.

After 18 wins in the 1980s, you only won three more times, all in the early 1990s. What happened?

It was puzzling—I just wasn’t hitting the ball well. Frustration sets in, confidence goes. I searched for a long time. I should have scaled down my schedule. It’s suicidal to play both [the PGA and European] tours. I would play 15 events in the U.S. and 12, 13 in Europe. Brutal.

You’ve never captained the Ryder Cup. Tom Watson will be 65 when he skippers Team USA this year. Does that give you hope, as a mere lad of 56?

Never say never. I was surprised to hear that Tom would be captain. He’ll be very good. You have more respect from the players as an older captain who’s been around for years.

Let’s say that you and Nick Faldo, both in your primes, play Justin Rose today. Who wins the Battle of Brits?

Well, Justin Rose has the modern scientific advantage—the physical training and the video work. Nick and I worked with what we had. Let’s just say it would be close.

The Sandy I Know
By Nick Price 

Sandy is one of the most genuine people that was ever put on this earth. Seriously. He has a very simple outlook on life, and he hasn’t changed from 
 the first time that I met him.

I stayed with him [at his house] in 1975 when. I was an amateur, and we’ve been good friends ever since. When I stayed 
 with him, our favorite thing to do was to get in his little Mini Minor car, and 
 we’d sit in there with a shotgun and go and chase rabbits on the golf course at night. We had a great time.

I think it’s sad that he never got a Ryder Cup captaincy. He should have. He’s such a lovely guy. I’ve never heard him say 
 a negative word about anyone. I was so happy that he got into the Hall of 
 Fame. I think the public has a misconception of him because he doesn’t 
 demand attention. But he has a heart of gold and a wonderful soul.

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