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Monday qualifying earns Lyle an early start on season

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NAPA, Calif. – Jarrod Lyle has known for three months that he would make his long-awaited return to the PGA Tour this month. A spot in the field at the Open this week simply serves as a welcome bonus.

Lyle, who has twice defeated leukemia, made it through Monday’s open qualifier by shooting a 6-under 66 and surviving an 8-for-4 playoff to earn his spot in the season-opening event. Shortly after holing his putt on the second extra hole, the Aussie became overwhelmed by the magnitude of the moment, one that sent him back to a PGA Tour event for the first time since February 2012.

“In the car on the way home, I kind of screamed like a little girl that I’d finally done it and got myself into a tournament that I wasn’t going to be playing,” he said Wednesday. “I felt really proud of the way I played on Monday. I came up here with a job to do, and that was to obviously Monday-qualify to get into the tournament.”

Lyle had targeted a return to the PGA Tour this fall, and he wrote letters to each of the first two events of the season asking for a sponsor invite. He received a spot in next week’s Shriners Hospitals for Children Open shortly after the tournament office received his request.

He was denied a spot in this week’s field, though, with invites instead going to former Stanford stars Patrick Rodgers and Cameron Wilson, along with Andy Miller, whose father, Johnny, is co-owner of Silverado and tournament host.

Despite the snub, Lyle doesn’t harbor any ill will toward tournament director Duke Butler.

“It’s difficult; everybody has got a story. My story is a little bit different than everybody else’s, I guess, but it’s one of those things,” Lyle said. “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.”

Equipped with 20 starts in his major medical extension, Lyle must earn $283,825 to retain his PGA Tour card. He plans to return to Australia for a doctor’s visit following next week’s event in Las Vegas, but his focus over the next fortnight, and for the balance of the new season, will be on the bottom line.

“My goals are simple: go out there, make cuts, make money, get my status, get my job back and play for as long as I can,” he said. “I’m a simple man with simple goals.”