The Fighter, Part 2: The opening round

By Rex HoggardFebruary 18, 2014, 9:31 pm

SHEPPARTON, Australia – At 6-foot-2, 230 pounds, there wasn’t a competitor or competition that 17-year-old Jarrod Lyle feared, but the look in his doctor’s eyes was foreign and frightening.

A few days earlier in the winter of 1999, Lyle had taken a spill playing Australian rules football with some friends. A bruise almost immediately emerged on his shoulder and continued to grow. The next day as Lyle’s mother, Sally, was dropping him, his brother, Leighton, and sister, Karly, off at school, Jarrod nearly passed out from the pain. Sally rushed him to see the family doctor.

“As I took my shirt off to show (the doctor) this bruise you could see something in his eye that sort of clicked and I thought, that’s not a very good look in his eye,” Jarrod Lyle recalled.

Before the sun set Lyle and his family were on their way to Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, 100 miles to the west, where doctors confirmed the onset of acute myeloid leukemia.

“I burst into tears and thought I didn’t even really know what leukemia was,” Lyle said. “You associate cancer with death because it’s all you ever hear. You know such and such died from cancer.”

Each morning for the next few emotional months, Lyle would wait for his mother in a nondescript room on the third floor of the hospital.

“I’d walk in and say, ‘Have you beaten it today?’ ” Sally Lyle said. “And he would say, ‘Yes.’ That’s what we said every day for nine months.”

Sally Lyle, the prototypical matriarch of a strong Australian family, doesn’t tolerate negativity. If you’re not looking forward, you’re wasting valuable time and energy. It is a trait that likely led Jarrod to confide in his father, John, in the dark moments immediately following the initial diagnosis.

“Why me?” Jarrod asked his father.

It was a moment of self-indulgent wallowing out of character, not just for the next nine months, but for a lifetime filled with equal parts adversity and achievement.

“That was probably the only time he said anything like that through the whole nine months of his treatment,” John Lyle said. “It was just one little instance and the rest of it was just he was looking forward to beating it.”

With time Lyle’s resolve to win each day’s battle strengthened. Within a month doctors had declared him cancer free. There were more treatments and sleepless nights, but there was always something that drove him to the next day, to the next battle.

At 7 years old, Lyle would wait for his father on the 15th tee at Shepparton Golf Club, a tree-lined layout that weaved its way along the Goulburn River, and he would caddie down the stretch before heading back out to play a few holes with his father’s clubs.

He set the course record at “Shep” as a junior – a mark that was later bested by his brother, Leighton – and was a regular on the country teams that make up the core of amateur golf in Australia. It was this love for the game that became his singular focus on May 13, 1999, as he made the long, silent drive to Melbourne to begin his nine-month bout with leukemia.

Even while he endured the ravages of chemotherapy, Lyle not only continued to play but his game improved. He won a junior event while still in treatment and even represented his district in an annual Country Week event the day after a particularly debilitating bone-marrow test and a lumbar puncture.

“I actually dropped my handicap from 4 to 1 while I was in treatment,” Lyle boasted.

That singular devotion was nurtured even more when Lyle’s idol, four-time PGA Tour winner Robert Allenby, visited him in the hospital. When Allenby, who had been an ambassador for the Challenge support network for children with cancer, arrived unannounced, Lyle’s reaction was a priceless: “Oh shit.”

From that meeting a friendship was forged and Lyle’s drive was focused even more. Beating cancer was no longer the ultimate goal, replaced instead by a more profound desire to ultimately join Allenby on the PGA Tour.

“Jarrod always had a good swing,” Allenby said. “But he had a mind that was the strongest part of his game and because of what he had gone through with the cancer, that enabled him to have a strength that could make him not just a good golfer but a great golfer.”

For nine months Sally Lyle’s daily message gave her son a reason to remain resolute, but it was the 17-year-old’s desire to continue down a suddenly clear path, an avenue that would ultimately lead him to the game’s grandest stage, that made each day worth fighting.

“His love of the game came out of that and every chance he got he was out here at the golf course playing and practicing,” John Lyle recalled.

Lyle wanted to win each day not for the sake of the victory, but for the chance to fulfill his dream of playing on Tour. It was a distinction and a direction that would ultimately define all the moments to come.

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Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.


Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship


It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

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Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

He's making his first start in the event.

''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.