Lyle the star on a dramatic opening day

BY Bruce Young | Australasian PGA Tour | 2011 The Australian Open | Round One | 10 Nov 2011

30 year old Victorian Jarrod Lyle leads the Emirates Australian Open at the end of round one, his morning round of 65 good enough to give him a one shot lead over the leading world ranked player in this field, Dustin Johnson and the late finishing American Nick Watney.

Lyle has come off a tough year on the golf course but a good year personally. “Yes. I got engaged this year. That’s a good thing. My fiancee is pregnant as well. The pregnancy side of things is something I never knew could happen.

“I was always told by my doctors that fertility could be an issue after all the chemo-therapy and stuff, said Lyle after his round. “To hear that Briony was pregnant made golf seem insignificant. Those bad days don’t affect you any more. I’ve got a little bub on the way. I feel that nothing can really worry me now.”

Lyle was of course referring to the significant amount of chemotherapy he underwent when suffering from leukaemia earlier in the year and the potential impact it may have had on his capacity to father children.

On the course however Lyle battled for much of the year. He played a full schedule of events on the PGA Tour this year but was only able to finish 167th on the money list which means a return to the Tour School this year. The fortunate thing for Lyle however is that courtesy of his ranking on the Australasian Tour money list in 2010 he gets directly into the Final Stage.

“It has been my focus this year (that has been the issue). “I’m good for a couple of days and then I’m bad for a couple of weeks. It shows in the results I’ve had. I’ll have a good tournament then I’ll have a few crappy ones.”

“It is a hard thing for me to try and get over but I’m working hard at the moment with Sean Lynch, who is a good friend. He is on the bag this week. I figured it was a good opportunity to put what we have been talking about into practice. He can see what I’m like on the golf course. It has been a good thing so far.

“I got straight in finals through the Australian Tour, where I finished on the Order of Merit last year. They take three guys out of the top 10 from the Aussie tour. I finished ninth. I did not think I was a chance to get in. It was lucky for me but unfortunate for another couple of guys who failed to enter. It is a good break and hopefully I can take advantage of it.

“That’s the lowest score I have shot this year he said referring to his hot start today,” added Lyle. "The only time I have ever played here previously was in a Peter Lonard and Paul Gow’s Charity day but it (the layout) has changed a lot since then.

Lyle was not getting carried away however. He has been around tournament golf too long to know that an opening round score, as good as it was it does not win golf tournaments.

“There are still three days to go. Seven under is not going to win this golf tournament. I’ve got to try to get whatever number it is that wins. I can’t rest on what happened today. I have to go and build. That’s golf. You never win on the first day. You can lose it. You’ve still got three days to go.”

Dustin Johnson played on the other side of the course than Lyle and was on the course just five minutes later at 7.25am. Johnson is the leading world ranked player in the field and this morning he gave an indication as to just why that is the case. He produced a six under par round of 66 and when the morning field had finished Johnson was just one behind Lyle.

“I missed a few short ones,” said the tall American. “Most of the birdies I made were tap-ins or three to four footers. I hit a lot of good putts that burned the edge. I played really solid all day. I hit a lot of good iron shots. I’m very pleased with the day. It always could be a little better.”

“Yesterday was the first full round I had on this course. “I played nine holes on Tuesday morning and four holes on Monday afternoon. Yesterday was the first time I saw holes four to eight. All you need is one round here. If you come out really scout out the course well, you can get a good feel for it.”

When the morning field had finished their rounds Lyle led by one over Johnson with a further shot back to the USA Presidents Cup captain, Fred Couples, Victoria’s long hitting, Steve Jones, Australian PGA Tour player Greg Chalmers and New South Wales, James Nitties.

The skies cleared and the breeze strengthened in the afternoon and with the likes of Woods, Scott, Day, Watney and Kuchar out in the afternoon half of the draw, the already large crowd swelled to what must have been record numbers for the opening day of an Australian Open.

There was little sense however of what was to come in an afternoon of drama. Adam Scott was the first to stake his claim to glory with a magnificent second to the downwind par five 8th. From 218 yards with a six iron his approach pitched on the front of the green and released into the hole.

The large crowd who had gathered around the green to follow both Scott and Woods in the following group were treated to something very special as the ball trickled forward and fell into the cup.

“It drew a little more than I wanted but a bit of luck goes a long way,” said Scott. “I like how it affects the scorecard he added when he was asked to compare it with a hole in ones he has had. It is certainly one I will remember for a while. There were a lot of people out there and a lot of arms went up in the air. It was a good feeling.”

Scott would go on to finish with a round of 3 under 69, a good solid start and is well placed to take advantage of hopefully good early morning conditions tomorrow as he chases his second Australian Open crown in three years.

Tiger Woods and Jason Day were playing in the group behind Scott and although both started slowly they began emerge as contenders through the turn. Day had the edge early on but and actually led Woods by one through 10 holes.

Woods was able to hold on best over the closing stages and after his round of 4 under 68, it was clear he was delighted with the manner in which he played.

“That was good today,” said Woods after his round. “That was exactly how I have been hitting it at home and how I have told you guys. I was able to take it to the golf course today and under these conditions hit all the shots. I got away with a terrible golf shot but I managed to get it up and down.

“I tried to be as patient as I could today as I knew in the afternoon conditions not a lot of guys would be hitting it in the 60’s. The wind switched directions a bit. You would think with this intensity it would stay the same but that was not the case.”

While those players would provide enough copy on their own it was left to the man who is a walking headline, John Daly, to provide yet another chapter in Australian Open history. Three years ago he smashed the camera of a spectator into a tree and today, after losing the plot when ‘tin cupping’ the 11th hole, he walked in.

Championship director Trevor Herden spoke to the press to clarify just what happened and what action is likely to be taken now.

“Apparently, he, (Daly), hit his driver off 10 and hit it in the bunker,” said Herden. “There was another ball in the bunker which we believe might have been from the practice range. He has played a wrong ball out of the bunker. He came back and played the proper ball, his ball.

“Then I believe he went down 11 and hit five or six balls in the water. I’m not exactly sure (how many). He walked straight off the golf course with his son beside him, got in a courtesy car and went straight back to the hotel. It is very disappointing for the tournament.

“I am extremely bitter and disappointed that he has treated this championship this way. It is becoming a bit of a habit. Something similar happened last week or the week before. It is unacceptable and I certainly hope that all the Tours deal with it in the appropriate manner this time. We are definitely disappointed in that attitude and that behaviour. It is unprofessional.”

In a statement released soon after CEO of the PGA of Australia Brian Thorburn said in part “This afternoon’s actions by Daly in withdrawing from the course constitute a breach of the PGA Tour of Australasia’s regulations and will be referred to the disciplinary committee as soon as practically possible.

“In view of that breach and a similar instance in Europe recently the PGA Tour of Australasia has withdrawn its offer to John Daly to play at the Australian PGA Championship.”

As the day drew to a close it became apparent that those who had the early lead would not be caughtalthough one or two did their best to chase them down.

Woods finished at 4 under, Day at 3 under after a bogey at the last took the edge off an otherwise reasonable day, with the only player able to get close to the hot early moorning scoring being Watney

Watney has become one of the game’s best players in the last two years and today reeled of five birdies in his last six holes to come from obscurity in terms of his place on the leaderboard to be just one behind Lyle.

When Watney bogeyed the 12th hole today he was floundering at just 1 under, but as you would inagine for such a classy player, just over an hour later, he had become potentially Lyle, Johnson and perhaps the field’s greatest threat, especially given that he will play early tomorrow.

He was late finishing his round and kept the large media contingent on edge till late but when he finished it essentially was all over.

It had, after all, been a long and eventful day.

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    About the Author: Bruce Young

    A multi-award winning golf journalist, Bruce's extensive knowledge of the game comes from several years caddying the tournament circuits of the world, marketing a successful golf course design company and as one of Australia's leading golf journalists and commentators.


    Read all of Bruce's articles »

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