By Steve Keating
AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) – Sandy Lyle may be one of the Masters most beloved champions but he received precious little of it at Augusta National on Saturday, cutting a forlorn figure as he hit the last putt of his career in the early morning rain on a near deserted 18th green.
The first British player to wear the Green Jacket after winning the 1988 Masters, the 65-year-old Scot was denied the rousing sendoff accorded former champions when he had to return on Saturday for a 12-foot putt that would complete his weather delayed second round.
When the horn sounded at 8 a.m. ET (1200 GMT) to signal the start of play and open the course to spectators Lyle took out a ceremonial golden putter made for the occasion and two-putted for a double-bogey completing his final competitive round in front playing partners Jason Kokrak, Talor Gooch, their caddies and a few maintenance crew and officials.
As Lyle made his way to the scorer’s office, signing for an 11-over 83, a stampede of patrons race walked (no running allowed on the Augusta National grounds) up the hill past the 18th green on the way to stake out places at Amen Corner, oblivious to the occasion unfolding beside.
“It’s a shame I didn’t get the chance to finish yesterday,” Lyle told reporters. “Needed another 30 seconds.
“We were just basically lining our putts up and I was going to be the last to putt.
“We tried to talk to the official that, you know, please, let us finish. But, no, they stuck to the rules and rules are rules and we had to abide by that.”
The crowds that gave Lyle a standing ovation as he made his way to the 18th green on Friday also protested as chants of “Let him putt, Let him putt” rang out.
While the end was as messy as the weather, Lyle’s appreciation was undiminished, placing his hand over his heart and blowing kisses to the gallery for their support as he walked off.
“They have been very supportive,” smiled Lyle, who got celebrations started on Friday with tequila and whiskey tasting into the early morning. “And more noticeable probably yesterday they all stood up coming up the 18th and Jason Kokrak stood by the green and clapped for me all the way from there.
“So they’re nice memories I’m going away with, going home with a good feeling.”
Lyle did hear cheers on Saturday when he made his way back to the 18th in a downpour 30 minutes later to help applaud his friend, 1987 Masters champion Larry Mize, who was about to complete his final round.
After hometown hero Mize tapped in for an eight-over 80 Lyle made his way onto the green handing the Augusta native a tissue and jokingly wiped his eyes.
“To get a reception like that and weather like this, I didn’t expect that,” said Mize. “That was very special for Sandy to come out and greet me there.
“Sandy’s a good friend, a great champion, and to finish off with him is pretty cool.”
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Augusta. Editing by Toby Davis)