Golf

Tears, birdies flow for Lyle at PGA

Rickie Fowler
Rickie Fowler sports the yellow shirt and Leuk the Duck pin for his good mate, the fallen Jarrod Lyle, on the opening day at Bellerive. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

Emotional Jason Day and Rickie Fowler are among the stars who put themselves in the mix while playing with heavy hearts during the opening round of the US PGA Championships in St Louis.

As golf mourned the loss of Australia's former US PGA Tour player Jarrod Lyle, who died on Wednesday night after a third battle with cancer, Fowler fired a five-under-par 65 at Bellerive Country Club.

He was later overtaken by long-hitting American Gary Woodland, who used his best putting round of the year to post a superb 64.

But it was Fowler who best summed up the spirit of the locker room in playing around the grief felt for Lyle.

Sporting a yellow shirt in support of close mate Lyle, American world No.9 Fowler mixed six birdies with a bogey.

"I was scripted to wear a dark blue shirt, so luckily I had a version of yellow and I'm happy (I) could support Jarrod," Fowler said.

"It was tough news yesterday and it's been a tough few weeks.

"I was lucky enough to be able to talk to him last Friday; one thing that helped was hearing how he felt. He sounded like he was in a good spot. Obviously that’s not something that’s easy to deal with.

"Jarrod wouldn’t want us out here feeling sorry for him or feeling bad or anything. He’d probably come out here and kick us in the butt and tell us to man up and go have some fun.

"So it’s a little bit kind of bittersweet. You’re trying to go out there and keep living life like he did, but it’s unfortunate that he’s not here with us.

"It has been enjoyable celebrating his life and we’ll continue to do that."

Day, the 2015 US PGA champion, choked back tears while talking to reporters after firing a 67 that left him sharing fifth at three-under.

"He's a buddy, but he's not there anymore and he's never going to come back," said Day, who used to live close to Lyle in Orlando, Florida.

"That's the hardest thing … now, I'm tearing up.

"It's heart-breaking; I've known Jarrod for a long time and my thoughts and prayers go out to (Lyle's wife) Briony and the two kids."

In a near-perfect ball-striking display, former world No.1 Day missed only one green in regulation while finding 12 of 14 fairways.

But an uncharacteristically poor display on the greens from the tour's No.1-ranked putter prevented an exceptional round.

The Queenslander smashed a 271-yard second shot into the par-5 17th (his eighth hole) but could only three-putt for a par.

Marc Leishman is next best of the Australians at two under, while former world No.1 Adam Scott was two shots further back at even par.

US-based Australian club pro Craig Hocknull finished at a creditable two over, while bigger-name countryman Cameron Smith struggled to a 74.

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