Getty Images

A memorable encounter with an unforgettable Lyle

By Ryan LavnerAugust 8, 2018, 10:49 pm

On this heartbreaking night when we lost Jarrod Lyle, I can’t help but think of when I first met him.

It was June 2011, and I’d flown to Memphis, Tenn., to write a magazine cover story on him. He was 29 at the time, cancer-free, and he’d agreed to visit the world-renowned St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for the first time.

It scared the hell out of him.

When Jarrod was 17, he underwent treatment for acute myeloid leukemia. For nine months he was confined to a hospital bed in Melbourne, just like the ones they had at St. Jude. It very well could have been his final resting place; his doctors gave him only a 20-percent chance of surviving.

The days largely blurred together, but he vividly recalled talking at night with some of the new friends he’d made in his wing. Then he’d wake up the next morning and some of them would be gone, with no warning, the horrible disease claiming more victims far too young.

The memories haunted him, as he wondered why he was spared and some of his mates were not.

“It’s left a black hole in me,” he said then.

His experience at the Royal Children’s Hospital was so traumatic that he returned only for his annual checkups. On his last visit, the doctor told him: “I never want to see you again.” And for a decade or so, it appeared as though Lyle might never have to.

Jarrod Lyle: The Fighter Introduction | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

He blossomed into the golfer he always hoped he could be, winning twice on the circuit and playing his way onto the PGA Tour. He was a hero in Australia, a beacon of hope for those battling the disease, an inspiration to anyone who spent even a few minutes around him. Happy and humble and hilarious, he continued to defy the odds. Not only was he alive, and thriving, but in 2012, he and his beautiful wife, Briony, were expecting their first child. It was a miracle.

But for cancer survivors like Lyle, bad news is always just one blood test away. While in Mexico for the Mayakoba event, he received the second of three sucker-punches: the leukemia was back. Knowing the physical and emotional torture he was about to endure, he decided to delay chemotherapy, so he could hold his newborn baby, Lusi, for a day.

Once again, he pulled through, and he bravely returned to competition, playing 18 Tour events on a weakened body in 2015 and ’16. In the first tournament of his last season, he played in the group behind Robert Allenby. The coincidence wasn’t lost on either of them. Years earlier, Allenby had popped into Lyle’s hospital room in Melbourne and invited him to play golf whenever he was released. They teed it up two weeks later and became lifelong friends. Whenever Lyle was down on his game, or his luck, Allenby reminded him: “Just remember what you’ve been through. If you can fight through that, you can do anything you possibly want in life.”

Lyle had hoped to instill similar life lessons on the patients at St. Jude that sweltering summer day in 2011, but he never ventured further than the lobby of the hospital. The smell made him nauseas. The walls felt claustrophobic. The thought of seeing another sick kid in bed and wondering whether he was ever going to get out, whether he was going to be able to pursue his dreams, made him want to crawl into a corner and cry.

He apologized profusely to the hospital PR staffer, but, no, he couldn’t tour the facility. It was still too raw, too painful, too real.

Instead, with his eyes welling, he hoped that I’d be able to share his remarkable story for him.

“You just can’t give up,” he started. “If I didn’t fight, if I didn’t think about golf, if I didn’t fight my butt off, I wouldn’t be here. I’d be at a desk job doing something I hate. But I’m here doing something I love, and you know what? I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.”

We ended up talking for about 15 minutes, about life and death, about his fears and his dreams. Before he returned to the cushy environs of TPC Southwind, Lyle sought out the hospital employee to apologize again for not meeting some of the kids in their rooms, like Allenby had done for him all those years ago. She gently put a hand on his shoulder and tried to comfort him. “It’s OK,” she said. “I totally get it.”

Lyle worried that day whether his hopeful message would be heard, but I’ve never had a doubt.

As he spoke in the hallway, a patient wearing a navy blue Titleist hat had poked his head around the corner and stopped to listen in to our conversation.

When Lyle turned to leave, so too did the young eavesdropper.

Smiling ear to ear, he practically floated back to his hospital room.

A GoFundMe page to help support Lyle's family has been set up by Lyle's good friend Tripp Isenhour.

Getty Images

Koepka primed for CJ Cup win and world No. 1

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 19, 2018, 6:00 am

Brooks Koepka wants a 2-for-1 at the CJ Cup. If he can collect his second non-major PGA Tour victory he can become world No. 1 for the first time in his career.

He’s in great position to accomplish his goal.

Koepka eagled the par-5 18th en route to a 7-under 65 in the second round at Nine Bridges in Juju Island, South Korea. At 8 under par, he is one back of 36-hole leader Scott Piercy (65).

Koepka, currently ranked third in the world, began the day three shots off the lead, but rapidly ascended the leaderboard. He birdied four of his first eight holes before finding trouble at the ninth. Koepka hooked his tee shot out of bounds, but the ninth is a par 5 and he was able to salvage bogey.

Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos

Current Official World Golf Ranking

That was his only dropped shot of the day.

The reigning Tour Player of the Year birdied the 12th and 14th holes in his bid to keep pace with Piercy. Koepka was two back as he played his final hole, where he knocked his second shot to 10 feet. He deftly converted the eagle effort to tie Piercy and earn a spot in Saturday’s final twosome. Piercy later pulled a shot ahead with a birdie at the ninth, his final hole of the day.

Koepka has officially won four PGA Tour events, but three of those are majors (2017, ’18 U.S. Open; 2018 PGA). His lone non-major win was the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open.

He can still reach world No. 1 with a solo second place, assuming Justin Thomas, currently world No. 4, doesn’t win this week.

That will take a mighty weekend effort by the defending champ.

Thomas also eagled the 18th hole to go from 1 over to 1 under. He shot 2-under 70 in the second round and is seven shots off the lead.

Getty Images

'Go in'? Yes, JT wants an ace at the par-4 14th

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 19, 2018, 5:11 am

Justin Thomas didn’t hesitate after hitting his tee shot on the 353-yard, par-4 14th in Round 2 of the CJ Cup.

“Go in,” he immediately said.

“Please go in,” he added.

Thomas’ tee shot was on a great line, but it landed just short of the green. Surprisingly, it took three more shots for his ball to "go in." After birdies on Nos. 12 and 13, Thomas parred the 14th.

Getty Images

Watch: Dufner makes six (!) fist pumps after birdie

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 19, 2018, 4:53 am

Jason Dufner makes Ben Stein seem like Jonathan Winters. Dufner often looks mighty miserable for someone who plays golf for a living.

But not on Friday at the CJ Cup!

Dufner made a 20-footer for birdie at the 16th hole and “celebrated” with one-two-three-(pause)-four-five-six fist pumps. There could have been more, but the camera cut away.

That was Dufner’s third birdie on the back nine, which offset a triple bogey at the par-3 seventh, en route to an even-par 72. Good times.

Getty Images

Watch: Paul C-ace-y makes hole-in-one at CJ Cup

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 19, 2018, 2:35 am

Par-par-par-par-par-par. It was a boring second round over the first six holes for Paul Casey at the CJ Cup.

And then he aced the par-3 seventh.

Casey's tee shot from 176 tracked straight towards the hole and rolled in near the final revolution. That got him to 2 under par for the tournament. He was five off the lead, held by Chez Reavie, but bogeyed the ninth and 10th holes to give back those two strokes.

Hey, it's a no-cut event and a guaranteed paycheck. Drinks on Casey!