Lyle making the most of unlikely start in PhoenixJarrod Lyle was a late addition to the field, but he's put himself in a good spot after day one.February 02, 2012
Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM Chief of Correspondents
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Truth be told, Jarrod Lyle figured he was probably going to have the week off.
After all, the Waste Management Phoenix Open is one of the most popular events on the PGA TOUR. Lyle was the second alternate at the start of the week, and when no one had withdrawn by Tuesday morning, he knew things weren't looking good.
Even so, Lyle went out and played nine holes -- just in case. And shortly before 4 p.m., tournament officials came and told Lyle that Nick Watney wasn't feeling well. Suddenly, the Aussie had tee times on Thursday and Friday.
The rest was up to Lyle, and he proceeded to take full advantage of the situation, firing a first-round 66 that left him in a tie for third after play concluded Thursday.
Lyle started on the back nine and got things off to a solid start when he hit a hybrid from 264 yards to 8 feet for eagle. He birdied the next par 5 when he hit his second shot into the greenside bunker at the 15th and blasted out to 17 inches. Birdie putts of 10 and 6 feet followed on the next two holes.
The front nine was more quiet with Lyle making his lone bogey on a three-putt from 51 feet at the fifth hole. He got that stroke back, though, when he rolled in a 25-footer at the ninth hole to finish at 5 under and in contention for what would be his first TOUR win.
"The start to the year's been OK," Lyle said. "But obviously, this week things are starting to improve. Obviously, after three weeks I'm getting back in that tournament groove, tournament swing of things. I feel good about it. I played nicely so hopefully all the work I've been doing after Christmas and since I've been back over here (in the States) I can see it's starting to improve -- and definitely the putting has come along vastly."
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Indeed. He ranked 131st in Strokes Gained - Putting a year ago but Lyle is 21st in the same category through his first three events this year. He used just 28 putts on Thursday at TPC Scottsdale, and he feels like the extra drills he's been doing are starting to pay off.
Of course, Lyle's most famous shot in Phoenix was the 8-iron he holed in the second round last year on the infamous 16th hole for his first ace on TOUR. He didn't get to play the par 3 during his abbreviated practice round but enjoyed getting reacquainted on Thursday.
"It kind of sends shivers down your spine a little bit," Lyle said.
The Waste Management Phoenix Open is Lyle's fourth straight event and he's got at least three more before he heads home to Australia for the birth of his first child. It's been a whirlwind few months for the affable 30-year-old who had to go to q-school in December after finishing 167th on the PGA TOUR money list last year.
Lyle ended up tying for fifth at q-school at PGA West in La Quinta, Calif., to regain his TOUR card. Then he got on a plane for the 15-hour flight Down Under, arrived on Thursday and got married on Saturday.
Lyle had gone to high school with his new bride, Briony, but they didn't start dating until after they reconnected over Christmas about seven years after they graduated. The couple dated four years before finally getting married -- and now their baby is due on March 17, which is the Saturday of the Transitions Championship.
Interview: Jarrod Lyle
Following his opening-round 66, Jarrod Lyle talks to Brian Katrek from SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio about his play.
Unless doctors suggest otherwise, Lyle plans to play straight through to the Honda Classic, which is held the week before the event in Tampa, before heading home. He hates that Briony has to go to doctors appointments alone and he doesn't like missing the prenatal classes. But it can't be helped.
"She understands," Lyle said. "She's probably one of the most understanding women. She knows I had to come back over here. I've got a job to do and all that sort of stuff. But she also knows if she goes into labor I'll be getting the next flight. Obviously, it's not going to be easy because I've still got 15 hours from LA back to Australia."
The little one's arrival is particularly anticipated given that Lyle wasn't sure he could have a child. When he was 19, he was bedridden for nine months after being diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. Doctors feared the chemotherapy might leave him sterile. He didn't even have the energy to walk a golf course for another year.
"The off chance is if she does go early, I'm going to miss it which won't be very nice because I want to be there," Lyle said. "I always got told after my chemo that I probably couldn't have children. So it's nice to have it happen naturally so I really want to be a part of it."
Once the baby is a couple of months old, Briony plans to head to the couple's Orlando base and soon the three will start traveling together.
"There are a lot of changes, but it's going to be nice," Lyle said. "I'm really looking forward to everything."