Sandy Lyle: Remembering the Scot's US Masters triumph, 32 years on

By Martin WattBBC Scotland
Sandy Lyle
Sandy Lyle is in the first group out from the 10th tee at 12:00 GMT on Thursday
The Masters
Date: 12-15 November Venue: Augusta National
Coverage: Radio and text commentary online with in-play clips. Daily highlights on BBC Two - full details here

"I don't know that there's ever been a better shot in a major." Less a boast from Sandy Lyle, more an honest assessment of the miraculous.

His bunker shot on the final hole at Augusta 32 years ago helped Lyle complete a stomach-churning triumph to become the first Briton to win the the Masters.

It remains an iconic Scottish sporting highlight. And in typically Scottish style, Lyle looked to have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory with a mid-round Sunday wobble.

As he prepares to tee off in this year's event, here is a look back at how Lyle averted glorious failure in the most dramatic of circumstances at the 1988 Masters.

'You don't know if it's pleasure or pain'

Lyle was 30 years old and and in the form of his life at Augusta. Only Greg Norman and Seve Ballesteros were above him in the world rankings, and by the halfway stage the Scot was top of the leaderboard.

He remained there - two shots clear - with 18 holes to play. It was all going almost too well. Try as he might, there was no shifting the dread gnawing away at him.

"The only way I can explain it to people is if you were at the dentist," Lyle told BBC Scotland in 2013.

"You're in the waiting room and you've got this horrible sort of churning feeling in your stomach. You don't know if it's going to be a pleasurable or a painful experience.

"That's what it's like when you're going into the last day with a one or two-shot lead."

The final round began steadily enough for Lyle. In fact, nine holes in and with advantage intact, he was halfway to heaven. Then came Amen Corner.

A bogey on 11 was followed by a splosh into Rae's Creek on the par-three 12th and two more dropped shots. He couldn't claw one back on the par-five 13th and Mark Calcavecchia's birdie gave the American the lead.

Lyle's hopes were fading fast. After a missed birdie chance on 15 he was "just hoping to get into a play-off".

But he wasn't giving up the fight and a superb birdie on the par-three 16th - nailing a 12-foot birdie putt - hauled him level.

'I wanted to do a somersault'

The Scot's incredible bunker shot on the 72nd hole set him up for glory
The Scot's incredible bunker shot on the 72nd hole set him up for glory

By the 18th, and with Calcavecchia in the clubhouse, Lyle's task was clear - a par for a play-off, a birdie for the Green Jacket.

He opted for caution and took a one-iron off the tee, only to watch in dismay as it rolled into a fairway bunker, 150 yards from the hole.

What happened next was an act of blind faith. Unable to see the flag, Lyle took out his seven iron, lined up the shot using a cloud above the green and caught it clean and true. The ball soared beyond the hole, then trickled back downhill to 10 feet.

Still plenty to do, but Lyle coolly rolled in the putt, raised his arms aloft, and performed an impromptu victory dance.

"I think you could call it a jig, yes," he said. "I wanted to do a somersault more than anything else but my legs had gone completely."

Firmly in the mood to party, it ended up being the only moves Lyle would throw that evening.

"The hotel where I was staying was noisy with a disco room and a bar going on virtually every night of that week," he said.

"I thought 'this is a good time to celebrate, I'm going to go down with the Green Jacket on as it's time to relax and have a bit of a party'.

"But on Sunday night everyone had gone home - there's no disco and nobody in the bar. So I walk into this place going 'where is everybody?' - and there's nothing!"

Lyle had won his maiden major, The Open, three years earlier, but his Masters success holds special resonance.

"You're not judged as a great player unless you've won a major of some sort," he said. "So to get the first one reasonably early, in 1985, did help me an awful lot.

"Then you win overseas in America, with the Green Jacket and all the razzmatazz that goes with it, to be my second major - I've never forgotten that.

"I get reminded of it by people nearly every week. When I die in my bed I'll be a very, very happy man that I've had some good memories."

Lyle was the first Briton to win the Masters and wear the famous Green Jacket
Lyle was the first Briton to win the Masters and wear the famous Green Jacket

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