Clock ticking on Lyle's comeback to PGA Tour

By Ryan LavnerOctober 16, 2015, 10:23 pm

NAPA, Calif. – The PGA Tour leader in inspiration can’t escape the cold, hard numbers. It doesn’t seem fair. The greetings are a little warmer, and the embraces are a little longer, and the cheers are a little lustier, but once he gets back inside the ropes Jarrod Lyle, the two-time cancer survivor, is judged just like every other player – by the cold, hard numbers on his scorecard.

And after nearly five months away, Lyle’s numbers weren’t good enough this week at the Open. He shot 69-77, a 2-over 146 total that left him well below the cut line. He now has nine more PGA Tour starts to earn $217,680, or else he’s out of a job.

“It’s still, unfortunately, a work in progress,” he said Friday. “I don’t know if there was a bit of rust in there or not, but it doesn’t make it any easier to swallow missing the cut.”

That’s now eight missed cuts in nine starts this calendar year; the only time he played the weekend, at Colonial, he missed the secondary cut and earned $12,350.

His game in shambles, Lyle decided in late May to sit out the rest of the Tour season. At that point, he wasn’t sure if he ever would return.

“A lot of doubt,” he said, “but it was nice just to get away from it. It was giving me gray hairs. It was frustrating me, and I just needed to get away from it and not spend every minute thinking about golf.”

His remarkable comeback put on hold, it gave Lyle and his family time to reflect.

At 17, he was stricken with acute myeloid leukemia and confined to a children’s hospital in Melbourne. Doctors gave him a 20 percent chance of surviving. Open: Articles, photos and videos

It was there that he met one of Australia’s sporting heroes, Robert Allenby, for the first time. Lyle dreamed of becoming a professional golfer, and Allenby offered him hope. They kept in touch for the next few years, and Allenby rode shotgun for many of Lyle’s career milestones, playing a practice round with him before Lyle qualified for the Tour, before he qualified for his first U.S. Open, before he won the Australian Open.

“I don’t think people really realize what he’s gone through,” Allenby said Friday.

In 2012, entering his fifth year on Tour, Lyle learned that the leukemia had returned. The news arrived the same week that his wife, Briony, gave birth to the couple’s first child. Lyle endured multiple rounds of chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant. He was declared cancer-free in June 2013 and made an emotional return to golf later that year at the Australian Masters.

“There’s two miracles in his life – having a child and also being alive,” Allenby said. “That’s why golf, to him, is not the be-all and end-all. It’s definitely his passion, so that’s why he wants to play and pursuit it with all of us.”

Lyle didn’t play again in the States until July 2014, when he tied for 11th in a Tour event, but he has fallen on hard times since. He ended the year with three consecutive missed cuts on that circuit, and now has cashed a check in only seven of 10 starts this season on the big tour.

So he stepped away. Lyle worked on a few projects at home. He spent time with his wife and young daughter. He watched his favorite Australian rules football team. He paid closer attention to his fitness, shedding 20 pounds with a more rigorous workout schedule and diet.

Allenby checked in with frequent text messages, just like he has for the past two decades.

“When he took that leave,” Allenby said, “I was like, OK, maybe that’s a good thing. He knows where he is mentally and physically. If he was feeling good, he would have stayed, I’m sure, but obviously he wasn’t feeling great and his health was a bit of a concern for him.”

It’s easy to second-guess now. Maybe Lyle rushed his return at the start of the year. Maybe the week-in, week-out toil of a touring pro was too much, too soon for his body, for his mind.

“I thought I was ready,” he said, “but I could have sat back for another 12 months and thought I was ready, too. The more I sat at home, the less I’d want to come over.”

What brought Lyle back to the game was his competitiveness. That part has never waned. He started playing three or four times a week at his local club, but he couldn’t get a true read on his game while playing with 20-handicappers.

So Lyle returned here this week at the Frys, eager and ready for another, likely final, try.

“I’ve said all along that I want to give it one last chance,” he said. “I’ve been given one last chance to play golf. If I unfortunately lose my status and lose my job, then I can’t sit back in years to come and say that I didn’t try hard enough.

“I’m giving it everything I’ve got to stay out here, but I guess in the long run, at the end of those 20 events I’ve played, if I miss every cut or I haven’t made enough money, then reality might set in and maybe I’m not good enough anymore. It’s always in the back of your mind that maybe I’m not good enough.”

And then Thursday happened.

The opening-hole birdie. The hole-out for eagle on the 16th hole. The 3-under 69 that put him in a tie for 29th, in line for a much-needed paycheck.

“It still gives you that glimmer of hope that there’s still some game left in the body,” he said. His late-afternoon play was the highlight of another otherwise sleepy opener at Silverado. Problem was, he had a tee time some 13 hours later, the second group off at 7:30 a.m. local – and that’s a big ask for a player with already low energy levels.

Sure enough, he looked like a different player Friday. He opened with a bogey. He dropped two other shots. He made a triple on the par-4 third (his 12th of the day), when his tee shot kicked out of bounds after an unlucky bounce off a tree.

Playing in the group ahead, Allenby occasionally turned around and watched his mate’s progress.

“A few lazy shots,” he said, “and it could just be fatigue. And that can happen. He probably put a lot coming into this tournament. He had a good round yesterday; he’s pretty excited. And then to try and come out early this morning, it’s very difficult for anyone, really, but even more so for him.”

To his credit, Lyle didn’t blame his second-round 77 on fatigue: “Just one of those days things didn’t go my way,” he said.

Instead, he lamented a poor setup with his wedges that seemingly always left him stuck between 100 and 130 yards, unable to create enough spin on three-quarter shots into Silverado’s rock-hard greens.

“He needs to get his swagger back,” said Lyle’s caddie, Darren Woolard. “He’s been out of the mix. He needs to start believing that he belongs. He showed me a lot today.”

But the cold, hard numbers show that the clock is ticking on his comeback. Nine events remain, and the goal remains the same: $217,680. He hopes to Monday-qualify for next week’s stop in Vegas. If he misses out, his next (and only) other Tour start the rest of the year will come in the opposite-field event in Mississippi.

Why not tee it up at Mayakoba, he was asked, because he has a stellar record there, with three top-10s in his last four tries?

“It’s bad juju down there,” he said, a sad reminder that his past is never too far behind.

The Mexico event is where he found out that the cancer had returned, in 2012.

“I work in weird ways,” he said, “and I don’t want to go to a place where I’ve got nothing but bad memories.”

Who knows if this will work out, if the numbers will turn in his favor, if this is his last attempt. He has beaten long odds before.

“I still want to do it – it’s always been my dream,” he said. “I guess at some point if it’s not working out the way I want it to, I think the decision for me would be pretty easy to walk away and be happy. But there’s always that glimmer of hope that I keep in my back pocket everywhere I go, like maybe next week will be the week.”

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McIlroy responds to Harmon's 'robot' criticism

By Mercer BaggsJuly 20, 2018, 6:53 am

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy said during his pre-championship news conference that he wanted to play more "carefree" – citing Jon Rahm’s approach now and the way McIlroy played in his younger days.

McIlroy got off to a good start Thursday at Carnoustie, shooting 2-under 69, good for a share of eighth place.

But while McIlroy admits to wanting to be a little less structured on the course, he took offense to comments made by swing coach Butch Harmon during a Sky Sports telecast.

Said Harmon:

“Rory had this spell when he wasn’t putting good and hitting the ball good, and he got so wrapped up in how he was going to do it he forgot how to do it.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“He is one of the best players the game has ever seen. If he would just go back to being a kid and playing the way he won these championships and play your game, don’t have any fear or robotic thoughts. Just play golf. Just go do it.

“This is a young kid who’s still one of the best players in the world. He needs to understand that. Forget about your brand and your endorsement contracts. Forget about all that. Just go back to having fun playing golf. I still think he is one of the best in the world and can be No.1 again if he just lets himself do it.”

McIlroy, who has never worked with Harmon, responded to the comments when asked about them following his opening round.

“Look, I like Butch. Definitely, I would say I'm on the opposite end of the spectrum than someone that's mechanical and someone that's – you know, it's easy to make comments when you don't know what's happening,” McIlroy said. “I haven't spoken to Butch in a long time. He doesn't know what I'm working on in my swing. He doesn't know what's in my head. So it's easy to make comments and easy to speculate. But unless you actually know what's happening, I just really don't take any notice of it.”

McIlroy second round at The Open began at 2:52 a.m. ET.

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How The Open cut line is determined

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 5:57 am

Scores on Day 1 of the 147th Open Championship ranged from 5-under 66 to 11-over 82.

The field of 156 players will be cut nearly in half for weekend play at Carnoustie. Here’s how the cut line works in the season’s third major championship:

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

• After 36 holes, the low 70 players and ties will advance to compete in the final two rounds. Anyone finishing worse than that will get the boot. Only those making the cut earn official money from the $10.5 million purse.

• There is no 10-shot rule. That rule means anyone within 10 shots of the lead after two rounds, regardless of where they stand in the championship, make the cut. It’s just a flat top 70 finishers and ties.

• There is only a single cut at The Open. PGA Tour events employ an MDF (Made cut Did not Finish) rule, which narrows the field after the third round if more than 78 players make the cut. That is not used at this major.

The projected cut line after the first round this week was 1 over par, which included 71 players tied for 50th or better.

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The Open 101: A guide to the year's third major

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 5:30 am

Take a look at some answers to frequently asked questions about The Open:

What's all this "The Open" stuff? I thought it was the British Open.

What you call it has historically depended on where you were. If you were in the U.S., you called it the British Open, just as Europeans refer to the PGA Championship as the U.S. PGA. Outside the U.S. it generally has been referred to as The Open Championship. The preferred name of the organizers is The Open.

How old is it?

It's the oldest golf championship, dating back to 1860.

Where is it played?

There is a rotation – or "rota" – of courses used. Currently there are 10: Royal Birkdale, Royal St. George's, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham and St. Annes, all in England; Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland and St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Troon, Turnberry and Muirfield, all in Scotland. Muirfield was removed from the rota in 2016 when members voted against allowing female members, but when the vote was reversed in 2017 it was allowed back in.

Where will it be played this year?

At Carnoustie, which is located on the south-eastern shore of Scotland.

Who has won The Open on that course?

Going back to the first time Carnoustie hosted, in 1931, winners there have been Tommy Armour, Henry Cotton (1937), Ben Hogan (1953), Gary Player (1968), Tom Watson (1975), Paul Lawrie (1999), Padraig Harrington (2007).

Wasn't that the year Hogan nearly won the Slam?

Yep. He had won the Masters and U.S. Open that season, then traveled to Carnoustie and won that as well. It was the only time he ever played The Open. He was unable to play the PGA Championship that season because the dates conflicted with those of The Open.

Jean Van de Velde's name should be on that list, right?

This is true. He had a three-shot lead on the final hole in 1999 and made triple bogey. He lost in a playoff to Lawrie, which also included Justin Leonard.

Who has won this event the most?

Harry Vardon, who was from the Channel Island of Jersey, won a record six times between 1896 and 1914. Australian Peter Thomson, American Watson, Scot James Braid and Englishman J.H. Taylor each won five times.

What about the Morrises?

Tom Sr. won four times between 1861 and 1867. His son, Tom Jr., also won four times, between 1868 and 1872.

Have players from any particular country dominated?

In the early days, Scots won the first 29 Opens – not a shocker since they were all played at one of three Scottish courses, Prestwick, St. Andrews and Musselburgh. In the current era, going back to 1999 (we'll explain why that year in a minute), the scoreboard is United States, nine wins; South Africa, three wins; Ireland, two wins; Northern Ireland, two wins; and Sweden, one win. The only Scot to win in that period was Lawrie, who took advantage of one of the biggest collapses in golf history.

Who is this year's defending champion?

That would be American Jordan Spieth, who survived an adventerous final round to defeat Matt Kuchar by three strokes and earn the third leg of the career Grand Slam.

What is the trophy called?

The claret jug. It's official name is the Golf Champion Trophy, but you rarely hear that used. The claret jug replaced the original Challenge Belt in 1872. The winner of the claret jug gets to keep it for a year, then must return it (each winner gets a replica to keep).

Which Opens have been the most memorable?

Well, there was Palmer in 1961and '62; Van de Velde's collapse in 1999; Hogan's win in 1953; Tiger Woods' eight-shot domination of the 2000 Open at St. Andrews; Watson almost winning at age 59 in 2009; Doug Sanders missing what would have been a winning 3-foot putt at St. Andrews in 1970; Tony Jacklin becoming the first Briton to win the championship in 18 years; and, of course, the Duel in the Sun at Turnberry in 1977, in which Watson and Jack Nicklaus dueled head-to-head over the final 36 holes, Watson winning by shooting 65-65 to Nicklaus' 65-66.

When I watch this tournament on TV, I hear lots of unfamiliar terms, like "gorse" and "whin" and "burn." What do these terms mean?

Gorse is a prickly shrub, which sometimes is referred to as whin. Heather is also a shrub. What the scots call a burn, would also be considered a creek or stream.

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How to watch The Open on TV and online

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 5:30 am

You want to watch the 147th Open? Here’s how you can do it.

Golf Channel and NBC Sports will be televising 182 hours of overall programming from the men's third major of the year at Carnoustie

In addition to the traditional coverage, the two networks will showcase three live alternate feeds: marquee groups, featured holes (our new 3-hole channel) and spotlight action. You can also watch replays of full-day coverage, Thursday-Sunday, in the Golf Channel app, NBC Sports apps, and on  

Here’s the weekly TV schedule, with live stream links in parentheses. You can view all the action on the Golf Channel mobile, as well. Alternate coverage is noted in italics:

(All times Eastern; GC=Golf Channel; NBC=NBC Sports; or check the GLE app)

Monday, July 16

GC: 7-9AM: Morning Drive (

GC: 9-11AM: Live From The Open (

GC: 7-9PM: Live From The Open (

Tuesday, July 17

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (

Wednesday, July 18

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (

Thursday, July 19

GC: Midnight-1:30AM: Midnight Drive (

GC: Day 1: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 1: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 1: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM ( Day 1: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (

Friday, July 20

GC: Day 2: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 2: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 2: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM ( Day 2: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (

Saturday, July 21

GC: Day 3: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (

NBC: Rd. 3: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-3PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 3-4PM (

Sunday, July 22

GC: Day 4: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (

NBC: Rd. 4: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-2:30PM ( Day 4: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-2:30PM ( Day 4: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-2PM ( Day 4: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-2PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 2:30-4PM (