WHEN you get to Sandy Lyle’s vintage, the phrase “turning back the clock” tends to be trotted out any time the celebrated Scot dips into his golfing archives and conjures some old Augusta magic. This week, the 57-year-old has turned that clock so far back he actually looks black and white. “I’m going to use a hickory putter this week,” revealed the 1988 Masters champion as he prepared for another batter about in his happy hunting ground. And why shouldn’t he? Lyle is the World Hickory Open champion, after all, having lifted that particular title at Panmure last autumn. “I won’t be wearing the plus fours mind you,” he added as he opted for more modesty in the sartorial stakes. “I like hickory golf but I’m not that serious.”

Who knows? With Lyle taking something of a step back in time, it might catch on. A certain Tiger Woods seems to be taking an interest. “I was at the Champions’ Dinner the other night and Tiger came over and said, ‘I hear you played on Saturday with hickory clubs?’,” continued Lyle as he reflected on a practice round at the weekend during which he played a full 18 holes with the auld sticks.

“My challenge was to break 80 but I didn’t. It was off the back tees mind you. I parred the first and the 18th. I think the young guys might struggle to break 76 round here with the hickories. I had Dustin Johnson hit my hickory driver one time and he still hit it 280 like a bullet. I’ve been using hickory clubs that are manufactured by a man called Tad Moore for a while. Tiger hadn’t heard of Tad Moore before but he sounded pretty interested. At the end of the evening he came over to me and said, ‘What was that name again?’ He wants to look at my hickory clubs and maybe try something different.”

The last time this correspondent clapped eyes on Lyle at the Masters, he was utilising a modern-day putting contraption with a head so vast it could have been visible from Jupiter. This week’s weapon will be a little bit different. “I’ve actually been putting quite well with the hickory putter and the wife said, ‘Well, why don’t you use it at Augusta?’,” he said. “I said, ‘I can’t do that’, but here it is. It’s something a bit different.”

The Masters still gets Lyle’s juices flowing. This will be his 34th appearance in the first major on the golfing calendar. The former Open champion has made the cut on his last two outings here and is relishing the prospect of getting into the old routine again. “My game is in reasonable shape,” he added. “The Masters still gets the old ticker going. I’m looking forward to it. The course is in good condition, there’s plenty of growth and it’s a little softer as well after all the rain. The big bombers may have that edge.”

Lyle has seen it, done it and acquired a whole host of officially branded Masters T-shirts during a glittering career. Bradley Neil, the reigning Amateur Champion from Blairgowrie, has it all to learn. He’ll be learning from a past master, though, after the 19-year-old was paired with Lyle for the opening two rounds. It will be a generation game. “He is looking forward to playing with me,” said Lyle, who is keen to make sure Neil revels in the experience. “You can’t do a lot for them but you can make them feel comfortable. Some players might be a bit overpowering. Greg Norman a few years ago may have given him the stare and made him feel uncomfortable. We’ll just have some fun but the challenge of the course will keep the mind going all the time.”

Georgia has been on Stephen Gallacher’s mind for a while now. Since his debut in the Masters last April, the Scot has experienced the rigours, pressure and expectations of a Ryder Cup in his own back yard. It’s all part of the day job. “There certainly can’t be any greater pressure than standing up on the first tee in a Ryder Cup on home soil,” said Gallacher. “If you don’t want to be faced with that sort of pressure then don’t try and qualify for it. It’s the same when you play in these tournaments. You get nervous but it’s more excitement than anything else. If you don’t get excited by being at a place like this then you are in the wrong game.”

Gallacher’s maiden Masters was one of fluctuating fortunes. The 40-year-old was in the upper echelons of the leaderboard at the halfway stage and was coasting along nicely after solid rounds of 71 and 72. Augusta National was never going to let him off lightly, though, and an 81 during the third round was a reminder of the beast that lurks amid the beauty. Gallacher repaired some of that damage with a spirited closing round of 70 to put the tin lid on an eye-opening experience. Back here in 2015, Gallacher is relaxed, confident and raring to go. “The first time you come here you are hit by the wow factor,” he said. “The second time around you know what to expect. I played half decent last year and know it’s a case of trying to build on that by finishing higher.”

Gallacher is the professional golfer but he’s still the golf fan too. “I’ve got a reasonably early start time so I’ll be there at the first tee to see Jack, Arnie and Gary teeing off,” he said in anticipation of that trinity getting things underway today. “They are legends of the game and I wouldn’t miss that. It’s part of the mystique and heritage of this event. I remember Sam Snead and Ben Hogan hitting the ceremonial shots in their mid-80s.”

They may have been younger than some of Sandy’s putters.