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Lyle chokes back tears on return

THE tears flowed as predicted on the first hole, but by the second the smile was back as Jarrod Lyle returned to professional golf on Thursday.

JARROD Lyle's return to tournament golf followed a fitting path for a leukaemia survivor - first tears, then laughter in the face of adversity and finally a determined show of defiance.

Flanked by Team Lyle - a group of family, friends and supporters dressed in specially-designed yellow shirts and caps - the 32-year-old gave his Royal Melbourne entourage an appropriately emotional ride.

Initially, he was pensive, as he waited on the tee to play his first shot in a professional tournament in 20 months, at the Australian Masters.

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He stood with head bowed, mostly avoiding eye contact or conversation with his playing partners or supporters for fear his emotions might spill over.

No one else wanted to break the silence either.

"They were scared to say 'Come on Jarrod,'" Lyle said.

"I think if they had it would have got me going and I think half the crowd would have been crying."

Lyle soon was.

Daughter Lusi, 20 months old, called him, and he couldn't resist a cuddle over the advertising hoardings before teeing off.

"That was the end of me, once that happened I was an absolute mess," he said.

"I hit that first tee shot with tears all through my eyes."

Jarrod Lyle (1)

The shot was greeted with spirited applause, Lyle's emotional restraint giving way even further as he stood sobbing in the background while playing partner Geoff Ogilvy teed off.

Lyle parred the first and was more relaxed by the second, chatting and laughing with Ogilvy before producing a birdie.

A string of bogeys from holes seven to nine didn't dampen his mood much.

Even when his tee shot on the ninth lodged in a tree, he joked with the gallery.

"What do you do? You've just got to laugh," he said.

"It just didn't really seem to matter today."

Not that Lyle was prepared to let his round slip away.After falling to three-over with another bogey on the 12th, the fighting spirit which he credits with helping him twice survive acute myeloid leukaemia re-emerged.

Two birdies and four pars to finish helped him to a one-over-par 72 and a decent shot of achieving his pre-tournament aim of surviving the cut.

"I don't want to come here and start my comeback with a two-day event and go 'Oh well, I tried," he said.

"I want to stand up on Sunday afternoon, walk off the 18th green and say 'I've played four days, how bloody good is that.'"

AAP

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