Lyle defies US posse to lead Aussie Open

Lyle defies US posse to lead Aussie Open

SYDNEY - Agence France-Presse
Lyle defies US posse to lead Aussie Open

US golfer Tiger Woods plays a chip shot on the second fairway during the first round of the Australian Open golf tournament in Sydney, Australia. AP photo

Cancer survivor Jarrod Lyle held off a powerful American contingent, including former world number one Tiger Woods, yesterday to be the first-round leader of the $1.54 million Australian Open at The Lakes.

The Australian, ranked 477th and who fought off leukemia as a teenager in 1999, carded a seven-under 65 in an unblemished round that included an eagle three at the 14th and five birdies.

Lyle, who must go through qualifying school next month to avoid playing in the secondary Nationwide Tour next season after losing his tour card with a 161st finish on the money list, was pursued by Americans, Dustin Johnson and Nick Watney, a shot back on 66.

Woods, who has not won a tournament for two years precipitating a slump in his world ranking to 58, wrestled with gusty afternoon winds to keep in touch, three shots off the lead. His 68, which included four birdies, was his first bogey-free round in nine months.

“I hit it really good today, that was exactly how I have been hitting it at home, so that’s good and I’ve taken it to the golf course in these conditions and hit all the shots,” Woods said.

“I just grinded, I was very patient all day and just took advantage when I could. With these conditions it’s easy to make a couple of bogeys in a row and get it going the wrong way and I just had to be patient, there wasn’t going to be a lot of guys in the afternoon hitting 60s.”

World number five Johnson, here for next week’s Presidents Cup as the top-ranked American player, fired eight birdies in his six-under round. “I made a lot of good putts, some tap-ins and some three-four footers, and I played really solid all day and made some great iron shots,” said Johnson, who reeled off five consecutive birdies from the 12th hole.

“I was a little rusty at the start, it was the first time I’ve been in competition for five-six weeks now, but then got it going pretty well.”

Watney collected five birdies in his closing six holes in the afternoon to finish with an impressive six-under.