The Fighter, Part 3: Career and family take off, until …

By Rex HoggardFebruary 20, 2014, 1:00 pm

SHEPPARTON, Australia – Amid the chaos and controlled mayhem that is the 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale, John Lyle shouldered his way into the crowded grandstand that rings the 162-yard par 3 to watch another seminal moment in his son’s life.

“A guy sat down beside me and said, ‘Do you know him?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, I’m his dad,’” John Lyle recalled. When Jarrod Lyle’s 8-iron dropped into the hole for an ace, “It was like listening to a Grand Final in Melbourne. The roar was just amazing.”

While the largely inebriated masses that occupy the Birds Nest cheered Lyle’s hole-in-one at the 2011 Waste Management Phoenix Open, John Lyle’s mind raced back more than a decade to the moment his son was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia at 17.

Those dark days at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne seemed a lifetime away, visions of a frightened child replaced by a driven man with a singular focus.

Nine months of debilitating chemotherapy and radiation treatments had been endured largely because of Jarrod Lyle’s dogged determination that he would play on the PGA Tour.

“The only thing I thought about was being positive and playing golf again,” Lyle said.

By the time doctors declared Lyle cancer free in 2000 he was already on his way to the game’s grandest stage. A year later, at age 20, he was admitted to the prestigious Victorian Institute of Sport in Melbourne, an intense training program that helped produce some of Australia’s top players, including Geoff Ogilvy and Aaron Baddeley, and he turned professional in 2004.

A year later he transcended the stereotype of a good-natured cancer survivor when he finished third at the Heineken Classic, a European Tour event played at Royal Melbourne.

“For him to go through what he did was amazing,” said Martin Joyce, who attended the VIS with Lyle and is now the director of the institute’s golf program. “It’s the type of personality he has. He doesn’t let too much get to him and just gets on with his own business.”

That no-nonsense personality – born, as with many cancer survivors, from his brush with mortality – helped steady him for what would turn out to be a less than meteoric climb to the PGA Tour.

In 2007 Lyle earned his first trip to the Tour via the Tour but struggled in his rookie season, missing the cut in almost half his starts and finishing 164th in earnings. He would spend the next four years bouncing between the secondary circuit and the Tour with regular stops at Q-School.

By the time he burst into the consciousness of the American golf fan with his raucous ace at TPC Scottsdale in 2011, he was mired in a familiar cycle of missed opportunities and missed cuts.

Throughout it all, however, Lyle’s history provided the benchmark of perspective: “The whole mindset side of things that I had while I was in the hospital of beating cancer and getting myself out there playing golf when I didn’t feel like playing golf,” he said.

“You hit some bad shots that didn’t seem that bad when you think back to where you’ve come from. You get this flashback of the 4-year-old kid that was there next to you in the hospital that was battling cancer the same time as you.”

After another successful trip through Q-School in 2011, Lyle began his fifth year on Tour with surprising consistency. He missed just one cut in his first five starts and closed with a 1-under 70 to tie for fourth at the Northern Trust Open, his best Tour finish in his 100th start.

Although it was early in the season, Lyle was 36th in earnings following the Northern Trust and he flew to Mexico for his next start with renewed optimism.

“It was just so nice to see someone smile from ear to ear,” said Robert Allenby, who befriended Lyle while he was undergoing treatment in 1999 and mentored him through his early years on Tour. “It didn’t matter what happened, you couldn’t take it off his face. He was just so happy to not only be playing a sport he loved but to do it professionally.”

Three months before his tie for fourth in Los Angeles, Lyle had married a former schoolmate, Briony, in a surprise wedding in his hometown of Shepparton. The couple was expecting their first child in March, which was also a surprise considering that doctors had told Lyle he likely couldn’t have children because of the treatments he endured as a teenager.

In late February when Lyle arrived at the Mayakoba Golf Classic flush with confidence 2012 was shaping up to be the best year of his eventful life, with the convergence of a growing family and the competitive reality of a professional career that appeared to have reached a tipping point.

“Yeah, stop there,” Briony Lyle offered with a nervous smile. “If only we could.”

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Watch: Tiger's Saturday birdies at Honda

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 24, 2018, 9:20 pm

Tiger Woods was in almost total control of his game for the majority of his third round Saturday at PGA National. And although he was once again bit by the Bear Trap, the 14-time major winner tapped in for birdie at the par-5 18th to post a round of 1-under 69 and fight his way back to even par for the week.

Four back to start the day, Woods parred his first seven holes before pouring in his first birdie via this flagged iron from 139 at the par-4 eighth:

Woods hit three more quality approaches at 9, 10 and 11 but couldn't get a putt to drop.

The lid finally came off the hole at No. 12 when he holed a key 17-footer for par to keep his scorecard clean.

One hole later, Woods added a second circle to that card, converting this 14-footer for a birdie-3 that moved him back into red figures at 1 under par for the week.

Unfortunately, the Bear Trap would ensnare Tiger for the second day in a row. Woods, whose iron play had looked as crisp as it had in years, sailed approaches long and left at both the par-3 15th and par-3 17th, leading to bogeys which erased the two birdies he worked so hard to secure.

But just like on Friday, Woods rallied back with a late birdie, this one at the home hole, to steal back a shot.

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O. Fisher, Pepperell share lead at Qatar Masters

By Associated PressFebruary 24, 2018, 5:13 pm

DOHA, Qatar - Oliver Fisher birdied his last four holes in the Qatar Masters third round to share the lead at Doha Golf Club on Saturday.

The 29-year-old Englishman shot a 7-under 65 for an overall 16-under 200. Eddie Pepperell (66) picked up shots on the 16th and 18th to catch his compatriot and the pair enjoy a two-shot lead over American Sean Crocker (67) in third.

David Horsey (65) was the biggest mover of the day with the Englishman improving 31 places for a share of fourth place at 12 under with, among others, Frenchman Gregory Havret and Italian Andrea Pavan.

Fisher, winner of the 2011 Czech Open, made some stunning putts on his way in. After an eight-footer on the par-4 15th, he then drove the green on the short par-4 16th for an easy birdie, before making a 12-footer on the 17th and a 15-footer on the 18th.

Like Pepperell, Fisher also had just one bogey to show on his card, also on the 12th hole.

Full-field scores from the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters

''I gave myself some chances coming in and thankfully I made them,'' said Fisher, who has dropped to 369th in the world rankings.

''You can quite easily make a few bogeys without doing that much wrong here, so it's important to be patient and keep giving yourself chances.''

Pepperell, ranked 154th in the world after a strong finish to his 2017 season, has been a picture of consistency in the tournament. He was once again rock-solid throughout the day, except one bad hole - the par-4 12th. His approach shot came up short and landed in the rocks, the third ricocheted back off the rocks, and he duffed his fourth shot to stay in the waste area.

But just when a double bogey or worse looked imminent, Pepperell holed his fifth shot for what was a remarkable bogey. And he celebrated that escape with a 40-feet birdie putt on the 13th.

''I maybe lost a little feeling through the turn, but I bounced back nicely and I didn't let it bother me,'' said the 27-year-old Pepperell, who hit his third shot to within four feet on the par-5 18th to join Fisher on top.

The long-hitting Crocker is playing on invites on the European Tour. He made a third eagle in three days - on the par-4 16th for the second successive round.

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Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

By Tiger TrackerFebruary 24, 2018, 4:45 pm

Tiger Woods is making his third start of the year at the Honda Classic. We're tracking him at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

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Uihlein fires back at Jack in ongoing distance debate

By Randall MellFebruary 24, 2018, 4:32 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Wally Uihlein challenged Jack Nicklaus’ assault this week on the golf ball.

Uihlein, an industry force as president and CEO of Titleist and FootJoy parent company Acushnet for almost 20 years, retired at year’s start but remains an adviser.

In an interview with ScoreGolf on Friday, Uihlein reacted to Nicklaus’ assertions that the ball is responsible for contributing to a lot of the troubles the game faces today, from slow play and sagging participation to the soaring cost to play.

Uihlein also took the USGA and The R&A to task.

The ball became a topic when Nicklaus met with reporters Tuesday at the Honda Classic and was asked about slow play. Nicklaus said the ball was “the biggest culprit” of that.

“It appears from the press conference that Mr. Nicklaus was blaming slow play on technology and the golf ball in particular,” Uihlein said. “I don’t think anyone in the world believes that the golf ball has contributed to the game’s pace of play issues.”

Nicklaus told reporters that USGA executive director Mike Davis pledged over dinner with him to address the distance the golf ball is flying and the problems Nicklaus believes the distance explosion is creating in the game.

“Mike Davis has not told us that he is close, and he has not asked us for help if and when he gets there,” Uihlein said.

ScoreGolf pointed out that the Vancouver Protocol of 2011 was created after a closed-door meeting among the USGA, The R&A and equipment manufacturers, with the intent to make any proposed changes to equipment rules or testing procedures more transparent and to allow participation in the process.

“There are no golf courses being closed due to the advent of evolving technology,” Uihlein said. “There is no talk from the PGA Tour and its players about technology making their commercial product less attractive. Quite the opposite, the PGA Tour revenues are at record levels. The PGA of America is not asking for a roll back of technology. The game’s everyday player is not advocating a roll back of technology.”

ScoreGolf said Uihlein questioned why the USGA and The R&A choose courses that “supposedly” can no longer challenge the game’s best players as preferred venues for the U.S. Open, The Open and other high-profile events.

“It seems to me at some point in time that the media should be asking about the conflict of interest between the ruling bodies while at the same time conducting major championships on venues that maybe both the athletes and the technology have outgrown,” he said. “Because it is the potential obsolescence of some of these championship venues which is really at the core of this discussion.”