Date: December 05, 2008
Author: Luke Buttigieg at Coolum, Sportal

Lyle has reason to smile

A desire to give his mates a reason to watch the golf over the weekend rather than just drink beer helped Victorian Jarrod Lyle match the Coolum course record and claim a share of the halfway lead at the Cadbury Schweppes Australian PGA Championship. Fresh from regaining his US PGA Tour card – 12 months after losing it – with two victories on the Nationwide Tour, the 27-year-old is relishing being back home, even if he didn&apost show it when he missed the cut at last week&aposs Sportsbet Masters in Melbourne. Ever since he turned professional four years ago, having had to overcome a battle with acute myeloid leukemia in his late teens, Lyle has always enjoyed strong support from family and friends in the galleries at events he contests, particularly in Victoria. And while he didn&apost give them much to cheer about in his home state a week ago, he delighted a group of five close mates and his father John with his superb nine-under 63 on Friday. “I think I just had the mentality today that I had to go at a few shots because there was a group of guys that came up from Shep and this is their second year and I missed the cut last year so I want to give them something to do on the weekend instead of drink beer,” Lyle said. “I&aposm sure they&aposll be drinking beer and watching golf anyway but it&aposd be nice that they&aposd be out there to watch me.” “These guys come up and they go and play golf, they&aposve just shot off to play Noosa Springs this afternoon and they play for a green jacket and it&aposs unbelievable, they just love it and they&aposre probably my biggest supporters.” Lyle didn&apost have the best start to the tournament and was three-over at the turn on Thursday before two birdies in three holes had him turning things around just when the thunderstorms rolled in and prevented any further play. Having dinner with his father later that evening and dissecting what he&aposd done, the pair &apospretty much had an argument about everything that I&aposm doing&apos, but he returned at 5:30 and salvaged an even-par 72. After that he defied the hot, humid conditions that had him sweating just &aposwalking out the door&apos to collect four birdies on the Coolum back nine and then five more coming home, with his drive through the green at the eighth a highlight as he made his ninth birdie. “It&aposs been kind of weird my golf game, I&aposve been playing good but just not scoring and just not taking advantage of the easy holes,” he said before revealing the argument. “Something kind of snapped in me and today was just one of those days that I hit it really good. I hit it just as good as yesterday but holed some putts and got some momentum going.” Asked about the discussion with his dad, who has caddied for him in the past, Lyle said the main thrust was that his father doesn&apost believe he&aposs &apostaking advantage of the holes that I used to gobble up&apos. “In a way he wants me to play a little bit more aggressive and I think maybe I have dropped off with my aggression a little bit on the golf course with certain shots but I can&apost fault today,” he added. “Today was perfect, I went at the flags where it was on and when there were shots that weren&apost on I just tried to get it somewhere near it and give myself a putt and I holed a couple of those putts as well.” While many players would have gone into their shell after losing their card in America, Lyle actually believes it was of long-term benefit to him because when he returns in 2009 he will be much better prepared for what lies ahead. Part of that includes dealing with travelling the USA solo, having only had his parents over for a fortnight this season, and being cut off other than through telephone contact from his girlfriend Briony Harper. Hopeful when he finished his round early in the afternoon that storms would force the afternoon starters on Friday to come back bright and early on Saturday just as he&aposd had to, Lyle feels like he is approaching the prime of his career. “This is my job and I want to set myself up for the rest of my life pretty much,” he said. “I think I&aposve made a good start of that but now&aposs the time where I&aposm 27, I&aposm starting to kick on and I think my golf game is in a place where I can go out there and I can contend as well.” “There&aposs no reason why I can&apost do that and I think that&aposs really the only thing I&aposm looking forward to (in America in 2009) is just proving to myself that I belong out there.” One distraction that Lyle has enjoyed in recent months is spending spare time back home in Shepparton cleaning up the restaurant that he part-owns with brother Leighton and sister Karli, called the Spaghetti Hollow. “When I&aposm in Shepparton I&aposm in that restaurant at 7:30, 8 o&aposclock in the morning, vacuuming, setting the tables, mopping the floors, hanging the tea towels up, mate I&aposd make a perfect wife, trust me, I would make a perfect wife,” he joked. With a best finish of third place at the Heineken Classic three years ago at Royal Melbourne, Lyle has set himself up perfectly for a shot at his maiden Australasian PGA Tour victory. And if his father and travelling mates have anything to do with it, that breakthrough could very well come this weekend at Coolum but, if not, there&aposs always plenty to be done back home at the Spaghetti Hollow.