Sporting Nation: Sandy Lyle & # 039; s & # 039; brave & # 039; Masters Victory

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In July, BBC Scotland's Sporting Nation series reflects some of the greatest achievements and personalities in Scottish sports history. Here we take a look at golfer Sandy Lyle, who won two major titles in the 1980s and was considered one of the best players in the world.

Most people remember the victory of Sandy Lyle & # 39; s Masters for his brilliant second shot from a fairway bunker to place the winning bird on the last hole.

But if you only focus on that sensational attack, you risk missing the tenacity of the Scot's overall performance. Indeed, I would rate it as one of the bravest major wins I have ever seen.

At the time, Lyle was arguably the best golfer in the world. No one hit a ball so sweetly and with such pure power.

"If you had to choose one, it would be great Sandy," said 1999 Open Champion Paul Lawrie in a recent discussion of the best ball attackers he has encountered. "The talent he had was great."

But on that glorious Augusta Sunday in 1988, during a dramatically winding nine-hole ending, Lyle came dangerously close to slipping this hugely prestigious tournament. through his fingers.

"It's something you can't really explain unless you've experienced it," he recalled. "That week's excitement, trying to stay motivated and keep everything moving forward and win the tournament."

A rollercoaster back in Augusta

Lyle arrived at the 52nd Masters won in Greensboro last week and tried to break a glass ceiling to become the first British golfer to in Augusta.

A solid first round 71 left him in a third and a 67 delivered a two-stroke advantage halfway through.

Saturday brought a par 72 level, the same score achieved by his closest rival Mark Calcavecchia, who was left two behind an attacking Ben Crenshaw. He accompanied Lyle for the last round.

Thanks to an excessive chip-in at the fourth, Lyle built a three-stroke lead, which was retained until the 11th. On that difficult par-4 he dropped a shot and worse would follow.

A double bogey at 12 and suddenly the lead he had worked so hard all week to construct had disappeared into thin air.

Sandy Lyle celebrates on the 18th green after his winning putt to hit the 1988 Masters

Such setbacks can be a tough one take a toll, especially in the boiler of the eighth in Augusta. Night leaders often struggle to recover from giving up seemingly safe benefits. Think of Rory McIlroy in 2011 or Jordan Spieth in 2016.

It often becomes a depressing, defamatory retreat. Lyle looked in that direction and seemed to run empty.

At five inferior alongside club house leader Craig Stadler, and roaring with the home crowd in pursuit of Calcavecchia and Crenshaw, Lyle failed to make birdies at 13 and 14.

An excellent chip at 15 almost brought a potential tournament-cymbal eagle, but that moment of brilliance was followed by a cautious, tepid birdie attempt that never threatened to fall. Par was a miserable return from a hole that promised so much.

The Masters ebbed away. A brand new Saltire now seemed destined to remain in the packaging; the more famous Stars and Stripes are unrolled much more often.

Ahead, Calcavecchia courageously parched the short 16th and kept a shot clear at 6-under. Lyle & # 39; s range of golf magic seemed to have run out.

But the Scotsman proved that he was a competitor of rare tenacity. He fired his seven-iron tee shot to 15 feet on the last par three, leaving a delicate downhiller for birdie. His putt was flawless, bang in the middle. It disappeared.

& # 39; One of the most incredible shots I've ever seen & # 39;

Lyle was back in part of the lead and on the last tee he had to find another birdie for glory.

He dragged his drive to the left on the 18th, the ball whizzed towards the fairway bunker and came to rest on the slope of danger, just below the lip. Lyle was forced to stun the second shot for an outrageous period, with Crenshaw playing first from a spectator knot.

Lyle & # 39; s first major success came at the 1985 Open Championship

This was the kind of delay Colin Montgomerie suffered in the last hole of the US Open 2006. At such times all kinds of demons can pop up, but not for Lyle.

Unless you've been to Augusta, you can't know how uphill that shot is. Only the top of the flag could be seen over the gaping rift of the bunker guarding the front left of the green.

He was 145 meters away, eight iron distance, but Lyle felt he needed another club. Never has a fairway bunker shot been so neat, so accurate and so profitable.

His ball bounced just past the hole, ran to the top of the ridge, almost came to a stop and then gravitated backwards and ended just two meters from the cup.

"That was one of the most incredible shots I've ever seen," said Crenshaw. & # 39; He took a seven-iron and took a very aggressive swing, and the ball was contacted perfectly. & # 39;

Runner-up Calcavecchia later said, "Every time I play the hole I look there and shake my head."

Lyle and caddy Dave Musgrove thought the crucial last putt would borrow to the left, but they also noticed grain that could push it to the right.

Just 20 seconds after lying his ball down and removing his marker, Lyle stroked home for a winning putt that never deviated from the center of the cup.

Now it was time for his famous mold of joy. It looked a bit half-hearted – that was all he could collect.

"I had no legs left, nothing in the tank at the end of that 72nd hole," he said. "The dance was just happiness, emotions. I really could have melted in a blob over there on the green and was quite happy for the next few hours."

Those hours have become decades. To this day, Lyle is still being asked about the biggest win of his career, a truly dramatic win in line with tremendous talent and tremendous athletic courage.

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