Before Bubba Watson bent his ball out of the trees on No. 10.
Before Phil Mickelson blasted out of the straw and around the pine tree on No. 13.
Before Tiger Woods’ U-turn chip tumbled into the cup on No. 16.
Before most of the iconic shots that Masters Tournament champions have made en route to the green jacket, there was Sandy Lyle’s fairway bunker shot on No. 18 that set up a birdie to win in 1988. Just a year after Larry Mize’s astonishing chip-in on the 11th hole in a playoff crushed Greg Norman’s heart, Lyle provided another climactic shot for the ages.
“That was one of the most incredible shots that I’ve ever seen over there,” said Ben Crenshaw, who played with Lyle in the final round. “He took a 7-iron and took a very aggressive swing, and the ball was contacted just perfectly. He didn’t take much sand, and the ball just rocketed out of there straight up in the air.”
“Every time I play the hole, I look over there and shake my head,” said Mark Calcavecchia, who finished second by a shot to the rangy Scot.
“Even to this day when I play in pro-ams, they all remember this bunker shot,” Lyle said.
He never tires of talking about it – or about his roller-coaster back nine that made him the last Masters champion to survive a Sunday double bogey on the perilous 12th hole.
“You couldn’t really write the script on that one,” said Lyle, who also won the 1985 British Open at Royal St. George’s in his Hall of Fame career. “I always felt that if I was going to win a major overseas, Augusta was one of the courses I felt reasonably comfortable I could do well on. I’d played U.S. Opens and PGAs and just couldn’t get my head around the setup of the golf courses. The narrowness of the fairways, the heavy rough – I felt like I was handcuffed. I just didn’t play well enough in them. My record in those tournaments was appalling. But the Masters I would always tend to find a reasonably good rhythm there and managed to win it once.”
Lyle became the first Masters champion from the United Kingdom, sparking a four-year British invasion, with England’s Nick Faldo winning in 1989-90 and Ian Woosnam, of Wales, winning in 1991. They were at the heart of a two-decade European reign at Augusta – 11 wins in 20 years – that included Seve Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer and Jose Maria Olazabal.
“Seve was the forerunner who made us all believe in ourselves,” Lyle said. “There was a guy that we played most weeks in Europe and he’s gone over and won the Masters several times and gave of us a lot of hope that it’s not always going to be controlled by America’s golfers. There is a chance the European or British golfers could achieve it. It all sort of snowballed in that late ’80s.”
That sustained level of high play left Lyle exhausted after his remarkable sand shot to 10 feet.
“Very simply, it had been such a packed week of emotions and trying to maintain a level of golf in the afternoons,” he said. “I’d won the week before in Greensboro, and that was obviously a busy week and a lot of attention. Then the media attention the week of the Masters. It was an ongoing effort to try to keep the adrenaline going.”