Lyras takes early lead at Moonah Classic - PGA of Australia

Lyras takes early lead at Moonah Classic

Buoyed by his first made cut as a professional a fortnight ago New South Welshman John Lyras has recorded a bogey-free 6-under 66 to take a one-shot lead at the Moonah Classic being played on the Open Course at Moonah Links.

Less than 48 hours since the conclusion of the Victorian PGA Championship on the same golf course, players were back out early on Tuesday in wind conditions that strengthened as the morning went on and will make things challenging for the afternoon groups.

Based at St Michael’s Golf Club in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, Lyras navigated his way around the Peter Thomson design better than anyone, opening with a birdie at the par-4 first and playing both nines in 3-under 33 and bogey free to be one shot ahead of Maverick Antcliff and Kiwi pair Michael Hendry and Daniel Hillier.

With the unique honour of making his professional debut on the PGA TOUR after qualifying for the Wyndham Championship in 2019, Lyras gained his ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia card at qualifying school at Moonah Links last January and called on those memories to sit atop the leaderboard midway through round one.

“I really enjoy playing this golf course,” said Lyras, who missed the cut at last week’s Vic PGA.

“It’s kind of similar to St Michaels off the tee in the fact that you can shape it each way that you want.

“It’s just enjoyable to come back to a place with a few good memories. I had to birdie the last to avoid a playoff last year at Q School so that was a nice feeling.

“The golf course is always in good shape and just visually it’s quite well framed off the tee. It’s always pure too so it’s a joy to play.”

The 24-year-old has played little since missing the cut at the final stage of Asian Tour Qualifying School last February but used the momentum of a joint win at the Merewether Pro-Am in January to record his best result in a tour event at The Players Series Victoria two weeks ago.

“That was the first cut I made as a professional so any time that’s the case that’s quite a good moment,” said Lyras.

“I’ve felt like the game’s been pretty solid. There are a few holes in the short iron play at the moment but that came around a bit more for me today nicely.

“At the end of the day it’s just trying to keep your head real positive and calm the whole way around.

“I had a few little wrist problems that I had to sort out last year so I took four months off the game doing rehab and that proved to be quite good for me.

“Physically I just wasn’t in good enough shape to play and practice so it was probably one of the best things that could have happened to me.”

Antcliff used the day off between tournaments to rest up and get fitted for a new driver, the set-up of his Titleist TSi3 driver delivering four birdies and an eagle in his opening six holes starting from the 10th tee.

“It was nice to get off to a quick start, I haven’t done that in a while,” said Antcliff after posting 5-under 67, making nine pars across the Open Course front nine to finish his round.

“Got it going early and then the wind picked up a little on the back. I hit some OK shots but didn’t really get much going and then made a couple of solid pars when the wind really picked up. It should be quite challenging in the afternoon.”

Having played in consecutive events in Cyprus on the European Tour late last year Antcliff is one of few players in the field to have experienced playing the same golf course two weeks in a row and admits it will become more challenging as the week goes on.

“I played the same course in Cyprus two weeks in a row at the end of last year but it was Thursday-Sunday, Thursday-Sunday,” Antcliff explained.

“You spent three days sitting around twiddling your thumbs because you’d already seen the golf course so much.

“Playing two days on the Legends, two on the Open and then a day off, it actually felt like a day off because of weather. It feels like a day was cancelled and then you’re back out there.

“I’m sure it will feel weird on Wednesday and Thursday and feel like an awfully long week.”

Players among the afternoon groups making an early impression include Anthony Quayle (2-under through eight) and Deyen Lawson (2-under through 5) with 11 players 1-under the card early in their rounds.

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