Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

St Louis — Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy prepared for an early charge as the 100th PGA Championship began on Thursday, many players teeing off with heavy hearts after the death of Australian golfer Jarrod Lyle.

Lyle’s passing on Wednesday at the age of 36 after a battle with leukaemia touched much of the elite field, with 98 of the world’s 100 top players in 2018’s final Major showdown at Bellerive Country Club.

"The courage shown through his battle is an inspiration to all of us. He made the world a better place. RIP mate," four-time Major winner McIlroy tweeted.

Woods, a 14-time Major champion, has made a strong comeback from spinal fusion surgery, briefly leading in the final round of July’s British Open. He has not won a Major since the 2008 US Open.

Joining Woods and McIlroy off the 10th tee was defending champion Justin Thomas, who won last week’s WGC Bridgestone Invitational.

"We lost a great one today. RIP, Jarrod," Thomas tweeted. "We will all be thinking about him and his family this week."

Lyle, whose best US PGA Tour finish was a share of fourth in 2012 at Riviera, played in two Majors, sharing 48th at the 2008 US Open and missing the cut at the 2006 British Open.

"Incredibly sad news about Jarrod Lyle," tweeted British Open champion Francesco Molinari of Italy. "Tough times for everyone on tour losing someone so special."

Molinari was set for an afternoon start alongside 2018’s other two Major winners, Americans Patrick Reed from the Masters and Brooks Koepka from the US Open.

"You were and always will be a fighter and will be missed by so many people. Rest In Peace Jarrod," Reed tweeted.

Lyle played in 121 PGA events from 2006 to 2016 and won two developmental Web.com Tour events. He was diagnosed with leukaemia as a youth and twice thought he had beaten cancer.

"Deeply saddened to hear about the passing of my friend Jarrod Lyle," tweeted Jason Day. "Jarrod will forever be an inspiration to us all."

Day made a morning start with five-time Major winner Phil Mickelson and 2011 PGA winner Keegan Bradley.

"Such a sad day, we will all miss you so much," tweeted world No3 Justin Rose while American Tony Finau tweeted: "Your legacy of toughness and kindness will live on."

Rose started in the afternoon alongside Spain’s Jon Rahm and US’s Jordan Spieth, who can complete a career Grand Slam with a victory this week. World No1 Dustin Johnson made an afternoon start alongside Bubba Watson and Adam Scott.