Happy 100th

Masters 2022: Former champ has hilarious reaction to hitting major milestone

April 08, 2022

Sandy Lyle walks across the fifth hole during the first round of the 2022 Masters.

David Cannon

AUGUSTA, Ga. — By day’s end Friday, calculating Alexander Walter Barr (“Sandy” to his friends) Lyle’s success rate in major championships became a matter of simple arithmetic. It is exactly 2 percent. Adding a second-round 76 to his opening 82, the 1985 Open champion and 1988 Masters winner completed a premature end to what was his 100th appearance in a Grand Slam event.

For the record, that century is made up of 41 Masters, 43 Opens, 10 U.S. Opens and six PGA Championships. Remarkably too, Lyle added only two other top-10s to his brace of victories amidst a veritable avalanche of missed cuts, 47 in all. Throw in two withdrawals and the 64-year-old Scot was on his way home before the third round in almost exactly half of his major appearances.

Anyway, in typical fashion, Lyle was completely oblivious when informed by waiting journalists of the latest milestone in his long career. And even then this most modest of men was a long way from excited. Which was perhaps understandable after a performance he variously described as “messy,” “a struggle” and “really annoying.”

“I wasn’t aware, no,” he said of his longevity at the highest level. “No one has ever mentioned it to me. Does it make me feel better? A little bit (laughs). I didn’t even know there was data on how many majors you’ve played. But I suppose that is pretty sporty, and something I can tell my grandkids in years to come.”

In other news, Lyle intimated that the 2023 Masters will be his 42nd and last.

“Next year might be the end of the Lyle attack on the golf course,” he said. “I'm not 21 anymore, and the clubhead speed has gone down rapidly in the last 10 years or so. This week was a bit of a struggle because I'm not hitting it far enough on the finishing holes. My playing partner [amateur Stewart Hagerstad] was 50 yards ahead of me on the 17th, which made the hole a lot easier for him. I can't hit it high enough and far enough to get into the flat bit on the fairway, so I'm hitting 6-iron when he is probably hitting a gap wedge.”

Still, this impromptu interview was more about nostalgia than anything else. And Lyle obliged with memories of his first major: As a 16-year-old amateur he made the halfway cut in the 1974 Open Championship at Royal Lytham, before falling victim to the 54-hole guillotine in operation at the time.

“My heart was coming out of my chest for the first opening tee shot,” he recalled. “I was just thump, thump, thump, thump and thinking, 'My God, I hope it's going to get better or get easier.' At 16, it wasn’t easy to control the feelings of nerves and emotions, even mind my hands and my putting. But gradually you get used to those situations; you deal with it. Nobody ever goes through it all without some sort of panic at some stage. Anyway, that was my memorable start to a career of golf.”

And not a bad one at that. In all, Lyle won 30 times around the world—in 1987 he was the first European to win the Players Championship—played in five Ryder Cups for first Great Britain & Ireland then Europe and, sometime in the late 1980s, prompted no less a figure than Seve Ballesteros to utter what must be the ultimate tribute paid to any golfer.

Asked who would win if every great player showed up at an event then played their best golf, the great Spaniard did not hesitate: “Sandy, of course.”

And there is still next year to look forward to.

“I'm still reasonably strong at nearly 6-feet tall, so I can still get the ball out there reasonable distances when I put my mind to it,” Lyle said. “I can still putt half-decent. I've got my nerve still there. So there’s always a little hope that I could make the cut and finish in the top-20 or something.”

It would be the perfect ending to No. 101.

• • •