Leukemia survivor Jarrod Lyle emerged from his first tournament on the US PGA Tour in more than two years with one of the most important personal victories of his life.
Lyle fought his way onto the main tour via the web.com secondary circuit following another lengthy battle with cancer – and proved to himself he still could be competitive.
The popular Victorian finished tied for 31st in the Frys.com Open in Napa California, alongside Aaron Baddeley at five under the card and 10 shots off the pace of Korean winner Sang Moon Bae, who beat Australia’s Steven Bowditch into outright second.
Lyle said making the cut had shown him he had lost little of the form which was put on hold for so long.
"I’ve proved to myself that I’ve still got an a little bit of golf game left, and that was the biggest question that I kept asking myself, am I going to be competitive enough?" Lyle said.
"And you know, I’ve played one tournament, I’ve made one cut, and there’s still a long way to go, but I know now that there’s still a lot of game there, that I can come in and compete.
"Hopefully it’s only going to go upward from here."
He described his performance after the second round as "incredible."
"My first tournament in two-and-a-half years on the PGA Tour and I come in and make the cut. That was the goal at the start of the week and I’m just ecstatic that I came through and fought really hard that back nine and I got myself into the weekend.
"I keep looking back to where I was two-and-a-half years ago…and I’ve come an awful long way. And to be able to sit here and say that I’m playing golf again on the weekend of a PGA Tour, I’m going to make a cheque I’m going to do all these things that I never thought was going to happen – it’s a dream come true and it’s nice to be able to do it the first tournament back."
Lyle was delighted with his game which he said was "close to being really good."
"There’s still a couple of little shots here and there that aren’t quite right, but I’m still doing a lot of good things, like I’m putting really solid," he said.
He now hopes he can continue to play without the constant worry of the disease which has interrupted his career and is confident he is close to being healthy once again.
"I’m having no treatment at all," Lyle said. "I’m just going to take a penicillin tablet every day for the rest of my life, and that’s just a precautionary type thing. But in terms of treatment, there’s nothing.
"I’ve just got to have obviously regular blood tests and things, which I could have done over here, but it’s my little safety blanket to go back to Australia and see my doctor and get it all done back there.
"It just sort of worked out this time that we’re going to be home in time for it, and it works out. It’s really good for me to be able to go home just for my sort of sense of well-being.
The decision to return home has been crucial and Lyle gives much of the credit for making that happen to his wife Briony.
"I think if it wasn’t for my wife, I probably wouldn’t be here," he said.
"She made the doctors delay things so I could be at the birth (of his daughter Lusi), to be able to see my daughter be born and to sort of have that to hang onto as I was dealing with what I was dealing with.
"You know, I obviously don’t know how she got through everything, dealing with a husband who was sick and having a newborn daughter who she had to care for pretty much 24/7. If it basically wasn’t for her strength, I wouldn’t be here, and I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in now to be able to play golf again.
"I owe a lot to her for kicking me in the ass pretty much."
Lyle was sympathetic to tournament organisers despite a view he should have been given an exemption into the Frys.com Open rather than being forced to qualify.
"I don’t feel like I should have got one at all. You know, it’s a tough job being a tournament director. You get letters every week to choose, so it’s difficult, everybody has got a story," he said.
"My story is a little bit different than everybody else’s, I guess, but look, it’s one of those things. He’s obviously chosen the right people that he wanted to choose for those spots, and I missed out as well as 390 other people missed out.
"I can’t be disappointed, and I’ve got myself into the tournament on my own merits, which is what makes me really proud."
Victorian Robert Allenby made a welcome return to form to finish in a share of eighth while Cameron Percy was tied for 26th, Marc Leishman shared 46th and Stuart Appleby 65th place.
By: Robert Grant