Augusta can't 'Bryson-proof' Masters course, warns Sandy Lyle
Sandy Lyle, still no slouch with a driver in his hand even at 62, has already watched Rory McIlroy unleash tee shots at Augusta National to spots he’d never seen before.
“Last year, he was in a group in front of me,” recalled the Scot, “and I remember his shots off eight and 13 and where he was playing his second shots from. I knew if I hit my best drive, I couldn’t get anywhere near about 50 or 60 yards of his drives.”
It’s just about to get more demoralising for Lyle, who, in his 39th appearance, is flying the Saltire on his own for the third year running at the Georgia venue.
Step forward Bryson DeChambeau. He led the PGA Tour last season in driving distance, averaging 322.1 yards off the tee, and has added more length to his game this season.
Since overpowering Winged Foot in September to win the US Open by six shots, he’s been trying to dial in a 48-inch driver. He’s getting close, apparently, and it could be in his bag for Thursday’s first round.
“Now Bryson is hitting the ball some 40-yards plus past McIlroy,” added Lyle, almost gulping at the thought. “It will be kind of fun to watch what Bryson will do this week. It could be all quite entertaining.”Whether the Augusta National green blazers find the 27-year-old ripping the place apart - if that does, indeed, prove to be the case - entertaining, remains to be seen. The course has already been “Tiger-proofed” and now DeChambeau comes along.“I don’t think Augusta can do an awful lot to ‘Bryson-proof’ the course,” insisted Lyle. “The greens will always be quite flat. Bryson is just a whole different animal at the moment. He is bringing to light also how good these long driving champions are.“He is really starting to border on their starting point and I mean clubhead speed-wise and in terms of distance he would be still a junior.“I’ve always said if you can get a long-driving champion who gets tuned-in to also being a good chipper and putter, who knows what they could achieve on the tour.“The ball almost looks like a ping pong as it comes off the clubface so quickly and seems to float in the air for ages. It’s just a different way of playing. Bryson is bordering on that kind of ‘long-distance champion’ scenario.”
Lyle will hit the opening shot from the tenth tee at noon UK time in the company of Jimmy Walker and Chinese amateur Yuxin Lin as the event is played behind closed doors.He’s created his own roars in front of the patrons over the years, notably 32 years ago when he became the first British player to secure a Green Jacket, but the ones he remembers most came alongside Jack Nicklaus as he won for a record sixth time in 1986 at the age of 46.“The noise was coming in from all angles,” said Lyle. “It even felt the noise coming down from the clouds at you. You could not have felt the influence of the crowds at Augusta anymore than that. “
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