On Monday Sydney’s John Lyras played his way into this week’s PGA TOUR event, the AT&T Byron Nelson, by finishing second at Monday qualifying in Texas. It is the second time Lyras has done so, having qualified for the 2019 Wyndham Championship. Here he shares what happens between qualifying on Monday and Thursday morning’s opening round.
I was fortunate to be in the last group out on the back side on Monday. All Monday qualifiers start pretty early in the morning anyway so you can go and register in the event in the afternoon or go and have a practice round. I had a squizz at the leaderboard after my 14th hole where I made a bogey to drop back to 3-under for the round. I set myself a goal to get to 6-under and was able to do that. Sunk a nice putt on the last hole which got me out of the big 7-for-2 playoff, which was nice. Very proud of the way I finished and hopefully I can take a bit of that momentum into Thursday and get into the flow of the tournament quickly.
For Monday qualifiers who get through but aren’t a member of the PGA TOUR it can be quite an ordeal. At the moment you’ve got to get a COVID test and that stopped me from getting to the golf course until Tuesday morning. You have to get the test and then wait an hour-and-a-half for your result. By that time they were shut so I had to go back the next morning to pick up my confirmation and my lanyard, which enables me to get into the main parking lot. That comes with some undue stress, trying to let the car park attendant know that I’ve got to register first to get my accreditation. Once they believe that you can go to the registration office and it’s quite extensive. All registration is online now which is awesome but because I’m not a member of the TOUR I’ve got to provide all my bank details, tax file number, all that stuff. It’s a good half hour process and then once you’ve registered you go to Tournament HQ which is generally in a much different part of the facility, where you get your accreditation and pass with your photo, where you’re allowed to be on the property. If you get a good run that takes half an hour for a non-member, for a member it takes 10 minutes. But it’s good fun to do. I’m lucky to have done it before but this time feels a lot sweeter.
You wake up on Tuesday to go to your first day of a PGA TOUR week. You’re just immensely excited to get out there and get the practice in, use the facilities and try and feed off the other players. You don’t necessarily need to talk to them but just watch them, see what they do and see how little mental energy they use on a practice round day. That’s perhaps the most impressive part of what these guys do. They use so little energy on practice round days just to stay fresh and keep ready for the tournament once it starts on Thursday. There’s no better place to be for your own betterment as a golfer. It elevates you straight away as soon as you set foot onto the property.
Tuesday was a pretty miserable day here in Dallas; it reminded me somewhat of Melbourne. It was 15 degrees, raining and breezy. I got some equipment stuff sorted, went to the first tee to play nine holes and Will Zalatoris rocked up onto the tee and asked if he could join us. Got to play nine holes with Mr Zalatoris which was a lot of fun. He was cool and giving with his time but it was hard to chat too much towards the end because we were under the umbrellas the whole time. I had a chat to him about The Masters which was obviously a great experience and just looked at certain parts of his game that I still need to work on and what I need to do to keep getting better. It doesn’t matter who you play with on the PGA TOUR, it’s helpful.
The equipment trailers are awesome. It’s cool the guys you get to meet, the contacts you get to know and the people you get to put in your phone. Bridgestone were very helpful in hooking me up with some golf balls once I got to the US two weeks ago so I can’t thank them enough. I got my driver and 3-wood specced out by TaylorMade, got the new Sim2 stuff. I probably won’t put the driver in the bag just yet but the 3-wood has gone straight in. I’m using some Ping wedges at the moment so I got them re-shafted and I was going to try and get some new irons but I probably won’t be able to get them prior to the tournament. I’m pretty much able to get whatever putter I want but some of them are on the condition that you use them this week which I’m probably not going to do. If you really, really want to you can go in and badger them and try and get as much as you can but I’ve got a pretty new bag of equipment at the moment. My TaylorMade P730 irons are a couple of years old but I kind of want to keep them because I really love the shape.
I had to get out early on Wednesday to play the back nine. I had to be on the course by 6.30am to get out there before the pro-am kicks off. Nine holes, a bit more work on the range, get some good putting and short game practice in, maybe get my equipment sorted and then have an afternoon of recovery. I’ve got an early tee time on Thursday which is nice, don’t have to wait around too long.
With one year in lieu last year with COVID qualifying for the Wyndham Championship two years ago feels like yesterday. I still remember it quite vividly but I’m more at peace with myself as a person now than I was then and enjoying golf a hell of a lot more now too. Professional golf isn’t easy, I can’t lie, and the enjoyment factor can get lost a little bit in there but I’m really, really enjoying my time being a professional golfer. I love the game more than I ever have, love the process more than I ever have and loving the grind a bit more. I’m just enjoying the opportunity to play golf again. It’s a pleasure to be out here.
Unfortunately with everything that is going in the world Dad couldn’t make the trip this time. It’s been very different this time round. It’s perhaps a better pre-tournament preparation for me this time, not too much happening, not too much to worry about. This time it’s been more work-related and I feel much more ready to go.
It’s always been a dream to play on the PGA TOUR and I’ve got to keep pinching myself that I’m here and be really grateful. Opportunities are pretty hard to get, just got to try and make the most of the opportunity and enjoy the process because this is the reason I play golf, to be here.