Even on his 60th birthday in February, someone asked him about that bunker shot. Thirty years ago it was now, but still they keep asking.
For golfers of a certain age — and on the Champions Tour in America, where Sandy Lyle now plays, the pro-am partners are nearly all of a certain age — it’s a time capsule back to when they were young.
‘It’s funny, they ask about the bunker shot and then they tell me where they were watching it and reminisce about what was happening in their own lives,’ said Lyle, chuckling to himself.
Larry Mize helps Sandy Lyle on with his green jacket after his historic win at Augusta in 1988
The most heartbreaking Masters of all time happened in 1968, when reigning Open champion Roberto De Vicenzo was robbed of victory owing to a scorecard error.
Playing partner Tommy Aaron marked down a four at the 17th instead of a birdie three, and the gentle Argentine failed to spot the error.
The rules stated the higher score must stand and he lost by a shot to American Bob Goalby. ‘What a stupid I am,’ said De Vicenzo, perhaps the saddest words a golfer ever spoke.
‘Some were in hotel rooms, enjoying a vacation or on business. Some were enjoying a beverage with their pals at the golf club or simply watching it at home. What’s amazing to me is they all remember exactly what they were doing.’
In Britain, the hour was almost midnight and a nation held its breath. Either that, or heads were being held in hands. The best opportunity a British golfer had ever had to win a green jacket, and Sandy, the golden child in every sense with his flaxon hair and Claret Jug victory in 1985, was blowing it. So comfortable for so long, calamity had struck.
Bogey at 11. Double at 12. No wonder they say the Masters doesn’t start until the back nine on Sunday. Then, after fighting back so bravely, he had only gone and driven the damn ball into one of those terrifying bunkers down the left-hand side at 18.
A par was needed for a play-off but few players back then got a par from those forbidding hazards. He appeared doomed.
‘It was certainly a back nine where I put myself through the wringer,’ said Lyle, recalling it like it happened a couple of weeks ago. ‘In terms of fighting my emotions, it was the worst mental battle that I had in my career, and by the time I got to the 18th I was almost spent. And then I drove into the bunker.’
The Scot's celebration after holing the winning putt and becoming first British winner
The year that Arnie’s Army hitched up their trousers for the first time as Arnold Palmer won the first of his four green jackets.
The victory in 1958 wasn’t without controversy, mind. At the 12th, Palmer was upset at not getting relief behind the green for what he considered an embedded ball and made a double bogey. He then played a second ball after taking relief and made a par. Several holes later, word came down he was entitled to relief, and the double became a par three.
Palmer ended up winning by a stroke.
With his last ounce of mental strength, he followed it with THE bunker shot, one of those jaw-dropping moments that you know instinctively will come to define the man, whatever they go on to achieve.
Up against the shallow face of the first bunker, he also had to clear the steep lip of the second directly in front of it. He did so with the most perfectly struck seven iron of his career. ‘Even now, I go back to that spot and wonder how he did it,’ said Mark Calcavecchia, the runner-up in 1988, a couple of years ago.
Two-time Masters champion Ben Crenshaw added: ‘It has rightly gone down as one of the most incredible blows in Masters history.’
It might not have been so heralded if Lyle hadn’t holed the 12ft putt that followed for a scarcely-conceivable birdie, and a one-stroke victory. He threw his arms in the air and did a little Scottish jig. Or so we thought. ‘I think I was really trying to do somersaults but didn’t have the energy,’ he said.
Lyle sank a birdie on the 72nd hole to win by one stroke over runner-up Mark Calcavecchia
Claude Harmon was a club professional competing against full-time tournament players when he won the 1948 edition by five shots for his only