Sports

Lyle leads, Daly departs on dramatic day at Australian Open

SYDNEY, Nov 10 – John Daly stormed off mid-round, Adam Scott hit an albatross and Tiger Woods submitted a blemish-free scorecard but little-known Jarrod Lyle trumped them all to take a one-stroke lead after an eventful opening day at the Australian Open today.

Twice major winner Daly blamed his abrupt departure on running out of balls after dumping six into a lake off the 11th tee but his excuse cut little ice with PGA Australia, who withdrew his invitation to the Australian PGA Championship.

Championship director Trevor Herden slammed Daly as “unprofessional” and said it was unlikely the 45-year-old American, who staged a similar walkout in Austria in September, would ever be invited back.

“I’m extremely bitter and disappointed that he’s treated this championship this way,” said Herden.

Australian Lyle (picture), who lost his card after a disappointing season on the US PGA tour, earlier prospered in the morning rain with a seven-under-par 65 to finish a shot ahead of American world number five Dustin Johnson and his compatriot Nick Watney.

Watney was the only player to threaten the top of the leaderboard in difficult afternoon conditions when a changeable, gusty wind reduced players and caddies to throwing grass into the air at every tee.

Fred Couples, playing in Sydney alongside much of his team in preparation for next week’s Presidents Cup, was in a group of four players sharing fourth with a 67.

The 52-year-old former US Masters champion, who will be non-playing captain for the United States at Royal Melbourne, was tied on five-under with locals Steven Jones, Greg Chalmers and James Nitties.

AFTERNOON DRAMA

Woods, who started his round just after the wind started picking up, was delighted with his four-birdie 68, which left him tied for eighth on four-under and gave him a first bogey-free round in nine months.

“I hit it really good today,” said the former world number one, who has slumped to 58th in the world after two years of personal turmoil and injury.

“That was exactly how I’ve been hitting them at home and that’s good, I was able to take it to the golf course today and I was able to hit all the shots in these conditions.”

If the better scores were recorded in the morning, the drama came mostly in the afternoon, starting when Australian Scott delighted a packed gallery at the par-five eighth hole with only the second albatross of his career.

The world number eight hit his second shot with a six iron from behind a bunker some 200 metres out and it landed on the green before screwing into the hole.

“It gave me a boost for sure,” said Scott, who celebrated by high-fiving his controversial caddie Steve Williams. “It put me where I should have been considering how I hit the ball. I didn’t make a putt today so I’m quite happy with three-under.”

Scott’s 69 was matched by fellow Australian top 10 player Jason Day, who finished with a bogey and will count himself unlucky not to have done better after a string of near misses with the putter.

Lyle, ranked 477th in the world, will start tomorrow’s second round of his home open three shots ahead of his more illustrious compatriots and he felt he could have done even better than his five birdies and eagle three.

“I probably left three or four out there, to be honest,” the 30-year-old, who battled cancer in his late teens, said.

“Everything evens itself out in the world. I missed a couple today. I might hole a couple tomorrow. I’m happy. Seven under is a damn good score. I am looking forward to tomorrow.” – Reuters

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