Round 1 reaction: Moonah Links PGA Classic - PGA of Australia

Round 1 reaction: Moonah Links PGA Classic

John Lyras on his happy return to the Open Course at Moonah Links, Maverick Antcliff’s equipment upgrade pays off and Justin Warren finds himself in contention yet again.

John Lyras (66, 6-under)

On starting his opening round with a birdie

“I had a pretty average warm-up but striped one down the first and hit a nice wedge in there. I rolled the putter really nicely today. Everything scared the hole so I knew that was there as a back-up in case the driver didn’t quite work out which was the case for most of the day. I stayed patient and as long as you stay patient out here at Moonah you can pick apart the golf course a little bit. And I felt like I did that really nicely today.”

On the highlights of his round

“It was driver, sand wedge into 10 and all the birdies were fairly commercial. To be honest it was a different round of golf for me. I didn’t really drive the ball all that well on the par 5s but just plotted my way around and really happy with a bogey-free round out here considering the way I hit it off the tee.”

On the conditions in the morning

“The wind picked up a little bit and got a little bit tricky on the back nine but just had to stay really patient and put the ball in the right spots all day. I didn’t really leave myself any hard up-and-downs either, even though I had to chip out a few times and wedge up and get up-and-down from the fairway a few times. They were real momentum builders. It was just really nice to get that round in the books and keep it clean for the most part.”

On returning to the Open Course after earning Tour card 13 months ago

“I really enjoy playing this golf course. 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 doesn’t really force you to hit a shape, particularly like Rosebud. 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.”

On his golf the past 18 months

“I went to Asian Tour Q School last year when the first four events of the year were going on but after COVID kicked off I really didn’t play much golf until August. I had a few little wrist problems that I had to sort out so took four months off the game doing rehab and that proved to be quite good for me. I was rejuvenated and really needed a break from the game, even though I didn’t want to. 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. I’ve been able to pick up a little bit from where I left off at the beginning of the year and started playing some really good golf at the end of last year. Working with my coach John Serhan, getting into the physio and strength and conditioning and picking up some speed off the tee. I won a pro-am a couple of weeks ago at Merewether up at Newcastle and played Belmont. For me it’s more mental application on the golf course that I probably gained over that time and able to reflect on my rounds of golf that I’ve had. COVID gives you a little bit more gratitude for everything and we are lucky to be playing golf and lucky to be living in Australia.”

On confidence gained from top-20 finish at The Players Series

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

On missing the cut at the Vic PGA

“The first round last week was very different because it was perfect conditions and you’re just kicking yourself anytime you don’t make birdie. It was just one of those weeks where I couldn’t really buy a putt and really struggled reading the greens there and got a bit frustrated. I know the game’s right there and if I’m mentally in the right spot then I can achieve some things.”

Maverick Antcliff (67, 5-under)

On being 6-under through six holes

“It was nice to get off to a quick start, I haven’t done that in a while. 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.”

On birdie at par-3 13th

“The wind was down slightly off the left and the pin was back left so I hit a knock-down 4-iron. I was just trying to get it to scoot up that back ridge. It got to the top and then just sat on it and I holed a nice 14-footer. That was really nice, just to keep the momentum going after hitting a couple close early.”

On withdrawing after two rounds at The Players Series

“I got food poisoning on the Friday night. I wasn’t feeling great but by Wednesday last week I was back to full-strength and played last week no worries.”

On the quick turnaround at Moonah Links

“I actually went and got a new driver. I went and saw the Titleist guys and got the TSi3 in a 10-degree with the new Fujikura shaft and it felt a lot better than the driver I’d been using. It took care of itself; I could just aim where I wanted to and hit it as hard as I wanted which was nice. The fitting I had previously was just out of my two-week quarantine when I came back from Europe so I probably wasn’t swinging it the best. It was doing what we wanted to at the time but then you get back into playing and on the course with different shots so didn’t feel as nice. I like to see the ball move left to right so I was just looking for something with less torque and a head that didn’t spin as much on the mis-hits. It looked good yesterday but then seeing what it did on course it matched up nicely.”

On playing the same course two weeks in a row

“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 so 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 kind of 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.”

Justin Warren (67, 5-under)

On the slow start to his first round

“I got off to a bit of a rough start. I took a day off yesterday so I was a bit shaky down 10 and made a bogey on 11 but after that I got into a bit of a groove. I didn’t really miss too many shots and when I did I missed in the right spots.”

On the highlights of his round

“I made a great up-and-down on 15 to get back to even, turned even and just knew that I’d been playing well the past couple of weeks. I just had to stay patient and hit fairways and greens and knew that I could get something going. I hit it close on 1, hit a 3-wood into the middle of the green on two, hit driver-driver onto the front edge on the fourth hole and two-putted for a birdie. That gave me a bit of confidence on the last few holes to chase birdies, made a nice one on seven and rolled in a 30-footer on the ninth which was a nice way to end the day.”

On what he learnt from having the 36-hole lead at Vic PGA

“Last week I played really well on the Legends Course, just didn’t really do anything wrong for two days and we had pretty favourable conditions. Saturday-Sunday we were out on the Open Course, much tougher golf course, much tougher conditions. It wasn’t that I did anything crazy or was feeling nervous or anything like that, it was simply playing a lot harder than the first two days and I just didn’t play as well as I did the first two. I still hit a lot of great shots, still hit a lot of really good putts so I couldn’t be too hard on myself for what I did on Saturday and Sunday. I just knew that I had to relax and stay patient. It’s a golf course that rewards patience because there are a few holes there where you can be aggressive and get going. I’ve worked out where to go and where to play safe and it paid off for me today.”

On what he has learned from being in contention

“It takes a lot of guts to really get out there and be aggressive, especially under the pump. These guys out here are really good and obviously with COVID we’re quite fortunate to have a number of guys back here playing these events that wouldn’t normally be here, they’d be overseas playing tours elsewhere. Since turning pro I have managed to get myself into contention quite a few times in some big events and the more you can put yourself in that position, the more comfortable you become. It’s a numbers game. Eventually you’re going to get over the line and get one done and when you do, it’s a hurdle that you get over and you become even more comfortable when you are in that position again. Being in contention is a great feeling, it’s always awesome to be up there in those last couple of groups on Saturday and Sunday, it’s simply working out a bit better game plan for when I get into certain situations where I may need to step away and think about the shots that I’m going to be hitting.”

On the people he seeks advice from

“Matt Jones is a friend of mine and if I’m ever struggling or needing any advice he’s someone that I can talk to and bounce a few ideas off. And my coach Gary Barter of course, he’s seen it all over his career. Being one of the rookie guys out here I’ve become close with a few of the guys who have been out here a few years and they’re always happy to have a chat and lend a bit of advice. I was even speaking to Brad Kennedy on the putting green last week and this week in regards to some stuff with my putting and just getting better. Brad’s a great putter and has had a lot of success around the world and being able to speak to him for 15 minutes on the putting green is something that I appreciate very much and always look forward to, learning from guys who have been there and done it over the years.”

On best piece of advice he has received from Matt Jones

“The night before the last round of the NSW Open in 2019 when I was leading I was struggling to go to sleep because I had so much adrenaline and was just wanting to go out and compete but I didn’t know what to do with that because it was 10 o’clock at night and I’m trying to get a good night’s rest. I sent him a text and asked what I should do and he said just to treat it like any other day. Don’t hype the situation up any more than what it is, you’re simply going back out there to play another round of golf. It’s so simple but it’s stuck with me because the more you treat golf and competition anything bigger than what it really is, you can really spin yourself out a little and blow it out of proportion. I’ve been a little angry the past couple of days from not quite executing on Saturday and Sunday but we’re out here playing again, it’s an awesome feeling and I’m just grateful. And that’s a nice feeling to have when you’re out there playing.”

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