Jarrod Lyle fights hard at Australian Masters, his first tournament since leukemia

Jarrod Lyle hugs his daughter Lusi on the 18th green after completing the final round of the 2013 Australian Masters.
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MELBOURNE, Australia — On the practice putting green at Royal Melbourne preparing for his fourth round at the Australian Masters, Jarrod Lyle was where he thought he'd never be Sunday.

Making his first tournament appearance since being struck by leukemia for the second time, the 32-year-old Australian admitted before the first round Thursday that he didn't plan to be playing on the weekend. After making the cut Friday, he said he would crawl the final few weekend holes if he had to.

He has improved his score each day, from an opening 1-over 72 to Saturday's 1-under 70 that left him at even par for the tournament, 14 strokes behind leader Adam Scott.

Scott was still nearly two hours away from teeing off when Lyle took his final few putting strokes on the practice green. He joked with his manager, Tony Bouffler, that he was dressed in his ''Gary Player black — and I hope I play like him today.''

As Lyle walked to the first tee, his wife, Briony, handed their 20-month-old daughter, Lusi to him. Lusi, wearing a yellow shirt with ''Go Daddy'' on the back, hitched a ride to nearly the first tee, spectators encouraging him all the way. Another 200 or 300 fans shouted out his name when he was announced just before he teed off.

Lusi was the child Lyle and Briony never expected to have. After his first battle with leukemia — when he was 17 — doctors told him the chemotherapy drugs would likely make him sterile.

Lyle, an optimist despite his illnesses, talked earlier in the week about the ''positive'' effects of having experienced leukemia before. He knew what to expect, he said, and the anti-nausea medication had improved in the 15 years since his first cancer bout.

On the negative side, the chemotherapy did not work as well the second time because his body had experienced it before. So instead of two to three-week stays in hospital, they were often four or five.

Before the tournament began, he thanked all the people had helped him in his recovery over the past nearly two years, including fellow golfers such as Tiger Woods who wore the ''Leuk the Duck'' pins from his cancer charity Challenge.

''I'm going to dedicate this first tee shot to everybody that's done that over the years or over the last 20 months,'' Lyle said earlier this week. ''Everyone who has got in contact with us and given us support.''

On Sunday, the wear and tear on his body and perhaps the rigors of the first three rounds were starting to show.

Not harnessing much of his ''Gary Player black,'' Lyle double-bogeyed the first and bogeyed the second. But he bounced back to birdie the par-3 third, the gallery increasing as he made his way around Royal Melbourne.