Jarrod Lyle's comeback to professional golf is over with the leukaemia survivor completing all four rounds of the Talisker Australian Masters. Steve Keipert reports
BY STEVE KEIPERT
Four rounds completed, 292 strokes played and a legion of adoring fans satisfied.
So ended Jarrod Lyle's emotional and successful week at the Talisker Australian Masters at Royal Melbourne. The 32-year-old leukaemia survivor achieved his initial goal of making the cut and playing all four days, and in the process rediscovered not only his talent for the game but also the breadth and depth of his supporters.
Lyle insists he won't rush a return to full-time competition but you get the feeling this tournament was more than merely a case of "Mission: accomplished". Lyle's 20-month absence from competition has done little to hamper his ability, save for a slight loss of distance from the tee. His technique remains sound, his ball-striking solid and his short game sharp. Physically, playing and walking 72 holes took its toll as Lyle was noticeably fatigued on Sunday, making more errors than he had during the first three rounds.
But this work-in-progress is progressing nicely. Were it not for a six-hole stretch, spanning his last two holes on Saturday and first four on Sunday, when he fell from two-under-par to five-over, Lyle might have finished in the top half of the field.
Not that it mattered, of course. As Lyle lined up his par putt on the final hole, from within the gallery his 20-month-old daughter Lusi let out an excited cry of, "Dadda!" - just loud enough to be heard without causing a distraction. Her presence, along with an armada of yellow shirt- and yellow cap-wearing family and friends, were emblematic of Lyle's reason for making his return this week.
Next for Lyle is to rest at his Torquay home and reflect on his comeback. A return to the PGA Tour in the near future seems unlikely, as he has been advised by the Tour not to hurry his ultimate comeback.
"I spoke to Andy Padzer [the US Tour's chief of operations] a while ago by e-mail and he said, 'If you think you're ready, give yourself an extra three months,'" Lyle said. "It's not like I'm coming back from a 'hammy' or a back injury or something like that. It's a little bit worse than that. But they have been incredible with their support for me and my family and it's nice to know that they are not putting any pressure on me to come back. They are just giving me all the time in the world I need to go back. Because if I go back and play when I am only 80 percent then I am wasting my time and I am going to be taking a spot away from someone who is at 100 percent ready to play. So I don't want to waste those 20 events that I have in my medical [exemption] and go back when I am underdone."