ONE of the privileges of being an accredited journalist here this week is that I may wander in and out of the clubhouse, stroll through the roped-off lawn and sit at one of the outside tables while sipping a lemonade.
 
This may not sound much but, believe me, the other 99.9 per cent of people at a Masters would love to be able to do this stuff. Anyway, it was while sipping that lemonade that Sandy Lyle came and sat down for a chat.
 
Sandy is one of the great natural golfers, the only player Seve Ballesteros ever said he envied his talent. In his prime nothing was beyond him and, of course, he won a Masters and an Open Championship just to prove the point. Indeed his second round 67 in 1988 when he got his Green Jacket remains the finest single round I have seen here in 35 years.
 
A year later Sandy’s game got up and walked away and he was never the same player. He still doesn’t know why. What I know is that he has handled his demise with typical grace and patience and still turns up here with at least a thin slice of optimism.
 
So we chatted about the old, good times and then we talked about the now. He told me he has played in four senior events this year and not done well in any. “It’s not my swing, it’s the putting, ” he groaned. “Even then it’s not like I am three-putting, it’s just that I haven’t holed a decent sized putt all year.”
 
So how do you think he did in his opening practice round at Augusta National where the greens are razor-sharp and the inclines are worthy of the Alps?
 
Yes, that’s correct, he putted out of his skin.
 
“Suddenly I couldn’t miss, ” he grinned. “Here, of all places. I’ve been averaging 34 putts a round and now at Augusta I take 26. I mean four 26 putt rounds and you win this thing. Okay, it was only a practice round but, honestly, I was round in 66. I’ve given up trying to fathom out this daft game. I’m just grateful for at least one reassuringly bright day.”