Wednesday's golf: Players enjoying atmosphere of the PGA

Joe Lyons
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

The sun is out, Bellerive Country Club is drying out and the players set to compete for the Wanamaker Trophy at the 100th PGA Championship are scrambling to get in practice rounds and learn as much as they can about the course.

The 72-hole tournament will begin Thursday morning and run through Sunday.

Tommy Fleetwood, a 27-year-old from England, said that despite Tuesday’s heavy rains, the experience at Bellerive has been exceptional.

“It’s a big change (from playing in Europe) and that you — it takes you by surprise straight away,” he said during a Wednesday press conference. “If you look at yesterday, we came back out to play after finishing nine holes (and getting stopped by thunderstorms) and the atmosphere was almost like a Saturday of a tournament.

“All the majors are similar, but this one in particular seems to have a really, really good atmosphere and it’s busy from Monday all the way through. It’s something you have to sort of ease through and learn how to manage your time (because) you’re basically playing a practice round like you’re playing in a final group on Sunday.”

Defending PGA champion Justin Thomas agreed: “The amount of fans out here (Tuesday) was absurd. I’ve never seen anything like that on a Tuesday. So come tomorrow and the rest of the week, I’m sure it will be pretty cool.”

Just the sixth golfer to shoot a 63 at a U.S. Open, Fleetwood finished a stroke behind winner Brooks Koepka earlier this year at Shinnecock Golf Club in Southhampton, N.Y. In 2017, he placed fourth at the U.S. Open.

“The U.S. Open just happens to be the event that I’ve done really well in,” said Fleetwood, who has placed 61st at last year’s PGA Championships after missing the cut in both 2014 and 2015. “It’s hard to put your finger on why I would have performed better in one event and not so much this one. You know, hopefully this week I do better and can sort of break that run.”

Justin Thomas, ranked No. 2 in the world, is the defending PGA champion and is also coming off a victory at last weekend’s World Golf Championship Bridgestone Invitational in Akron, Ohio. He won by four strokes over Kyle Stanley.

“First and foremost, obviously, I’m excited to be back, but I need to try to get myself in contention,” the 25-year-old from Louisville said. “That’s the most important part when it comes to trying to defend a title. But being the deepest field in golf and a great golf course and (you have) a lot of players trying to knock off that Major here at the end of the year (who) haven’t gotten one yet this year.

“Any tournament’s a tough one to win, but this one especially is.”

In 2013, Thomas was a member of the U.S. squad that defeated Great Britain/Ireland, 17-9, in the Walker Cup at National Golf Links of America in Southampton, N.Y.

The captain of that U.S. Team: St. Louis amateur golf legend Jim Holtgrieve.

Lyle dies

With a contagious smile, a sense of humor and a deep determination to keep playing golf, Jarrod Lyle endeared himself to people around the world during a long struggle against cancer.

The 36-year-old Australian golfer died Wednesday night at his home near Melbourne among family and close friends, the week after opting to forego further treatment and enter palliative care.

“It breaks my heart to tell everyone that Jarrod is no longer with us,” his wife, Briony Lyle, said in a statement released by Golf Australia on Thursday. “He asked that I provide a simple message: ‘Thanks for your support, it meant the world. My time was short, but if I’ve helped people think and act on behalf of those families who suffer through cancer, hopefully it wasn’t wasted.’”

Lyle, who won twice on the Nationwide Tour in 2008, was first diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia as a teenager and suffered recurrences in 2012 and 2017. He was survived by Briony and two daughters.

Lyle was diagnosed in 1999 and spent much of the next nine months in a hospital in Melbourne.

He gradually returned to golf and reduced his handicap to scratch before turning professional in 2004. He qualified for the Asian Tour in 2005 and started playing on the second tier of the U.S. tour in 2006.

After an another setback he made an emotional comeback from 20 months out of competitive golf during the 2013 Australian Masters before using a medical exemption to play on the U.S. PGA Tour in 2015.

Lyle underwent a bone marrow transplant last December but last week decided not to continue with treatment after saying he’d “reached his limit.”

Lyle’s sense of humor and courageous comebacks made him popular with fans and fellow golfers.

Jason Day, who is among the Australians playing this week at the PGA Championship in St. Louis, said he was “deeply saddened” by the passing “passing of my friend Jarrod Lyle. Jarrod will forever be an inspiration to us alI.”

Marc Leishman, also at the championship, said the golf community was saddened.

“It’s a life taken way too soon,” Leishman told the Australian Associated Press. “‘’He showed us how to face the toughest times with the utmost positivity and his fight to the very end was so inspiring.”

The European Tour posted a tribute on social media with footage of Lyle’s hole in one at the Australian PGA championship in December, 2016, with a message saying “Full of joy and determination, on and off the course. This is how we’ll remember Jarrod.”

PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan said Lyle “was a true inspiration in the way he faced cancer with a persistently positive attitude and he carried himself with incredible grace, dignity and courage through the recurrences of this relentless disease.”

Monahan pledged to Lyle’s family “that Jarrod will never be forgotten; we will continue to honor his life and legacy, and that includes helping to support the needs of his family in the months and years to come.”

The family said a private family service would be held in the coming days with a public memorial service in Torquay, near Melbourne in Victoria state, at a later date.



When: Thursday-Sunday

Where: Bellerive Country Club, St. Louis

Length: 7,547 yards

Par: 72

TV: TNT — 2-8 p.m. today and Friday ; 11 a.m.-2 p.m.Saturday and Sunday; CBS — 2-7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday