Laid-back Lyle in lead at Australian Open
Jarrod Lyle lost his U.S. PGA Tour card after a very mediocre season. Off the course, and in the good news department, he's engaged to a woman from his Australian hometown who is pregnant - surprisingly, he says - with their first child.
So the genial Lyle, who often calls himself the ''Big Unit,'' wasn't getting overly excited about a 7-under-par 65 Thursday that gave him a one-stroke lead at the Australian Open at The Lakes, even if it was his best round of the year.
''I don't turn up to a golf course with a number in mind, of what I have to shoot or what I want to shoot,'' Lyle said. ''Golf is that kind of game that you can shoot 65 or 85 and they are not much different. I've played solid but have not really achieved anything.''
The Australian, who made the cut in only 12 of 29 tournaments this year and had only one top-10 finish, will return to the United States in two weeks to play the grueling six-round PGA Tour qualifying school in an attempt to regain his card for 2012.
Lyle's memory of the noisy Lakes course, that is under a flight path for nearby Sydney airport and borders a traffic-clogged freeway, is foggy - the one and only time he played it previously was in a boozy charity golf day. And the course since has had a major renovation.
''I can't remember a lot about the golf course because there were a few drinks involved,'' Lyle said. ''I think the changes that have happened out here are pretty cool. It makes it a more links-style golf course and more wind affected. The wind that you get here in Sydney is going to make it tough.''
Tough is what he's expecting when he plays the final rounds of the qualifying school at PGA West at La Quinta, California, from Nov. 30 to Dec. 6. He didn't have to go to the opening stages because he's in the top 10 on the Australasian tour's Order of Merit.
''A lot of people have called it hell on earth, which it is,'' Lyle said. ''You can look back on the first day and one missed putt can mean playing on the PGA Tour or playing on Nationwide. That's the reality of it.''
Last year in the same tournament, he finished fifth, and since the top 25 get exempt cards, he was back with the big boys. But now it's back to Q-school.
''When you are trying to chase a certain number that gets higher and higher each day, the pressure really builds up,'' Lyle says. ''It is weird because after four days you still have two days to go. It is something that your mind and body are not used to.''
Regardless of the difficulties he's had on the golf course, and the daunting task he faces at qualifying school, the rest of his life has been excellent. His fiance, Briony, is from his hometown of Shepparton, Victoria, and he was as surprised as anyone when they found out she was pregnant.
Lyle spent nearly a year in hospital when he was 16 suffering from leukemia and underwent numerous chemotherapy sessions.
''The pregnancy side of things is something I never knew could happen - I was always told by my doctors that fertility could be an issue after all the chemotherapy and stuff,'' Lyle said.
''To hear that Briony was pregnant made golf seem insignificant. Those bad days don't affect you any more. I've got a little bub on the way. I feel that nothing can really worry me now.''