The well-kent faces are starting to fall like flies. Last year, two-time winner Ben Crenshaw said “cheerio” to The Masters. On Friday, another double champion here, Tom Watson, also brought the curtain down on his competitive career at Augusta National. So, too, did 1991 winner Ian Woosnam, though in his case it is mainly down to the fact the little Welshman is no longer capable physically for this undulating course due to ankylosing spondylitis, a form of spinal arthritis.
As Watson pointed out after his emotional exit, the beauty of this event compared to the three other majors is that a Green Jacket winner can pick their time to call it quits here rather than seeing an exemption expire.
“I’m grateful for the fact they allow past champions to pick the time to retire,” said the 66-year-old. “That’s what makes the Masters unique compared to all the other tournaments, all the other majors. It allows players to make the call. I still think that’s the very special thing about this tournament.”
So, who’s next to drive up Magnolia Lane for the last time? Sadly from a Scottish perspective, it could well be Sandy Lyle. The 1988 winner was making his 35th appearance in the event this week. Unsuccessful on this occasion, he made the cut as recently as two years ago. But, even though the 58-year-old can still get the ball out there off the tee, a test that has been stretched to 7,435 yards is starting to make him think that the end is nigh, too.
“There is definitely a fine line between coming back here thinking you are doing the right thing but not actually enjoying it,” he told Scotland on Sunday. “Right now, I think I’ll have two years more left at the most – no more than that. It would be nice to go out on a high and hopefully I can make the cut again.”
Making it to 2018, of course, would see Lyle bow out on the 30th anniversary of his victory here – one of Scottish golf’s golden moments. He could make birdies here back then, winning with a seven-under-par total, but not any more. “I didn’t have a single one in 36 holes, which isn’t like me,” he groaned. “Even when I’ve played my worst golf, I’ve managed to make birdies and the occasional eagle.
“Playing with the young ones here opens your eyes in terms of how far they hit the ball these days – and I’m no slouch. At the last, for example, I was hitting a 3-iron (it was a 7-iron from the bunker 28 years ago) for my second shot whereas Bernd (Wiesberher) probably had something like an 8-iron in there.”