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Stephen Gallacher: Sandy Lyle is one of Scotland’s all-time golfing greats

Two-time major winner set to call it a day after the Masters.

Sandy Lyle has announced he is retiring
Sandy Lyle has announced he is retiring

Sandy Lyle can walk off into the Georgia sunset next week with his place in Scottish golfing history assured after announcing his retirement from professional golf.

Sandy has decided it’s time to call it a day after 50 years of travelling the globe playing tournaments and he should be proud of the career he has had.

If, as seems likely, the Masters next week is his final tournament then there is no more fitting place for him to bow out.

His seven iron from the bunker on the last at Augusta en route to winning the tournament in 1988 remains a shot to marvel all these years later.

It truly is a thing of beauty and I can remember watching it in amazement as a young lad at home in front of the TV.

Given his victory made him the first British player to win the tournament his incredible win defined his career but he was so much more than that one event.

Put it this way if he is not the best Scottish golfer of the modern era then I’m not sure I can come up with a name for who would be ahead of him in the pecking order.

Even Seve was in awe

It’s easy to forget Sandy’s Masters success was not the first major of his career. That had come three years earlier at Royal St George’s in the Open.

The Americans were dominant at the time to the extent we had gone 16 years – back to Tony Jacklin’s win in 1969 – since seeing a home win in our own major.

Sandy ended that wait in 1985 and his victory led to more wins for British golfers with Nick Faldo claiming three in the space of six years while Paul Lawrie had his famous Carnoustie win in 1999.

The highest honour of all though came from his peers and it was the great Seve Ballesteros who said it best when asked if he played at his best could anyone beat him?

Seve’s reply was “yes, Sandy Lyle by five shots.”

Seve Ballesteros was a huge admirer of Sandy Lyle.

That’s how good Sandy was. A European Tour order of merit winner in 1979, 1980 and 1985, he was also a trailblazer on the PGA Tour.

He won The Players Championship, an event regarded as the unofficial fifth major and was on fire early in 1988 before donning the green jacket at Augusta.

It is easy to overlook his Masters win was made it back to back PGA Tour wins at the time and was his third win on tour that year.

If there is one disappointment it is that Sandy never got the chance to be Ryder Cup captain. He certainly deserved it.

His chance to be captain was in a period when the match was not as high profile as it is today but he was more than qualified for the role.

It has been a privilege to watch Sandy play golf but more importantly it has been an honour to get to know him and play alongside him.

A nicer man you’ll never meet, Sandy is truly one of the best to ever do it from these shores.

Match Play Championship needs to stay on the calendar

Sam Burns holds his trophy after defeating Cameron Young in the final match at the Dell Technologies Match Play Championship. Image: PA

If last week was the last time we’ll see the Match Play Championship then it certainly went out with a bang.

As it stands the event will not be happening next year and I find that sad. It’s a format which is exciting and unpredictable and last week’s finale in Texas illustrated it brilliantly.

As the tournament whittled down to the final four everyone was expecting a final between Rory McIlroy and Scottie Scheffler.

But Sam Burns and Cameron Young had other ideas.

Rory was 2up with three to play and still held a one hole lead playing the last but Young did brilliantly to take the semi-final to an extra hole before beating Rory to reach the final.

Burns took until the 21st hole to beat Scheffler in another epic semi-final showdown before romping to victory overall with a dominant 6 and 5 win against Young in the final.

That’s the beauty of match play. It doesn’t matter how well you are playing, a few holes is all it takes for your hopes of victory being dashed.

We should take nothing away from the champion, however. Burns played brilliantly all week and nobody could keep up with him – not even the world number one.

Despite failing to make the final Scheffler and Rory are the two in-form players in the world right now and bound to be fancying their chances at Augusta next week.

Scottish golf in rude health

Ewan Ferguson is flying the flag brilliantly for Scottish golf following two excellent displays.

He has finished in the top four in his last two DP World Tour events which, trust me, is no mean feat.

Ewan made a big decision in moving to Dubai so he could practise in warm weather on a regular basis but it is clearly paying off for him.

I know he has aspirations of making the Ryder Cup team this year and performances like his last two will certainly do his prospects no harm whatsoever.

Bob MacIntyre has done well for the last couple of years but Ewan is quietly going about his business.

It’s easy to overlook the fact the guys are still relative rookies on tour but they are definitely making good progress.

With David Law, Connor Syme, Grant Forrest, Calum Hill and Craig Howie we’ve got a smashing group of Scottish guys and I think the future is looking bright for Scotland.