AUGUSTA, GA. - Is this the Masters or Old Timers Day?
As if Tom Watson shooting 67 at age 60 wasn't enough, Fred Couples (age 50) is four-under par with five holes to play. Then there's 52-year-old Sandy Lyle, who just finished with birdies on three of his four closing holes to shoot 69.
In some respects, Lyle's play is the most intriguing if only because in 2003 and 2004 when the Masters was without an honorary starter, Lyle was put in the first group out with Charles Coody and Tommy Aaron. And he didn't like it. Didn't like it at all.
Although at that time he has not broken 70 at Augusta National since 1992, Lyle made it clear that he was somewhat irked by the pairing. "I'm not ready for this yet," he said after the first round in 2004. "I don't consider myself a ceremonial starter. I might have to speak to them about that. [Jack] Nicklaus won at 46. It's a good age."
Since then, Lyle has not gone off first and, amazingly, his play at the Masters has improved of late. He has made the cut three straight years, including a T-20 finish in 2009. And to show he still has the goods, Lyle averaged an impressive 290 yards off the tee Thursday.
Not exactly the stuff you see at Old Timers Day.
-- E. Michael Johnson