Appleby rides wind to top of Mercedes
By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Ann Miller
KAPALUA, Maui — Look what the wind dragged in.
Huge breezes rocked Kapalua's Plantation Course again yesterday and left the usual suspect — two-time defending champion Stuart Appleby — in the lead halfway through the Mercedes Championships. His closest pursuers are all major champions, with Michael Campbell and Jim Furyk both shooting 72, David Toms 73 and Vijay Singh 74.
Appleby hit in the hazard on the final hole and still shot a 1-under-par 72 on a day like no other since Mercedes, which brings together winners from the previous year, moved to Maui in 1999. For the first time here, no golfer shot in the 60s.
Appleby's 3-under 143 is the highest 36-hole total by six shots, after Tiger Woods' 137 in 2000.
Former King Cobra "Demo Boy" Jason Bohn, whose pro golf career was kick-started when he won $1 million in a Hole-in-One contest as a redshirt college freshman, had the day's low round at 70. He needed birdies on four of the last five holes to do that.
The late surge kicked him up 14 places into eighth at even-par 146 — a shot behind first-round leader Olin Browne (76) and 2002 champion Sergio Garcia (74). Brown led by four after the fifth hole, but ultimately needed incredible perseverance to stay in red numbers.
Appleby, as always, persevered best. If he wins tomorrow, the Australian will become the first golfer since Gene Littler, in 1957, to capture this championship three straight years. It is the only tournament he has won the past two years.
"I wish I could tell you there was something, some secret I had here, but there's nothing," Appleby said. "I just know how to play the course. I don't know. Ask the other players. ... I guess I don't make as many mistakes and I make a few more birdies. Every year, it comes down to one or two shots."
Whatever he's got, 27 guys would love to catch it today and tomorrow, particularly if the tradewinds keep howling. Appleby, who has won with four-day totals of 21 and 22 under, gauged the gusts at 10 to 15 mph stronger than Thursday, when meteorologists had it at 25, and the course "three to five shots harder, at least."
"If anyone gets near 10-under par," Appleby said, "if it keeps up like this, you'd win easy, I think.
"At its normal gale-force level, it was strong, then it got gusts. I was hitting a tee shot on 9, it was downwind, you take the club back and swing through, into the wind and it felt like someone had hold of the club on the downswing."
Campbell, who claimed his hometown of Wellington, N.Z., the "second-windiest" place on the planet next to Chicago, actually seemed to enjoy it.
"I'm used to hitting big ducky hooks, big slices, 130-yard 4-irons, stuff like that," the U.S. Open champion said. "It was a lot of fun out there. Normally you go out to play your basic swing, but the last couple days I had to manufacture every single shot."
Furyk, who owns a house on the course, brought some perspective. He said it wasn't "totally out of the ordinary — I mean the locals have to play in this stuff quite a bit. They don't feel bad for us."
Certainly not when tomorrow's "loser" gets $70,000 just to be blown around. Everyone is chasing Appleby, again, and was from the 10th hole yesterday when he slid into the lead with his first birdie. That putt was from 25 feet and so was the next birdie, on 14. He chipped to a foot to birdie the par-5 15th, but gave it back when his drive on the 18th hooked into the hazard.
It was just another normal Kapalua day for Appleby, aside from the wind that ripped from sunrise to sunset and ballooned the average score to 75.5 — the highest since the event moved to Kapalua. It was the highest single-round scoring average on tour since the final round of last year's Players Championship (76.512).
Only seven players are under par going into today's third round. A year ago, Carlos Franco was the only player who did not finish under par.
Stuart Appleby had his first 3-putt in 102 holes at Mercedes yesterday on No. 2. The streak dated to the final round of 2004.
All but five — Michael Campbell, Sergio Garcia, Justin Leonard, Ted Purdy and Ben Crane — of the 28 players in this week's Mercedes Championships are on the final commitment sheet for next week's Sony Open in Hawai'i.
The final list also includes former champions Vijay Singh, Paul Azinger, John Cook, Brad Faxon, Jim Furyk, Corey Pavin, John Huston, David Ishii, Jerry Kelly and Jeff Sluman. Among other names are Hawai'i's Kevin Hayashi, Brandan Kop, Michelle Wie, Dean Wilson and Beau Yokomoto.
David Duval, whose only previous Waialae appearance came in 1995, will be back. Duval has made just eight cuts the last three years. The man who was ranked No. 1 in the world in 1999 hasn't been among the top 200 on the money list since 2002.
Seniors Peter Jacobsen and Craig Stadler received sponsor exemptions, as did Bill Haas, Shive Kapur, Frank Lickliter II, Thaworn Wiratchant and brothers Kiyoshi and Yusaku Miyazato — whose sister, Ai, won the LPGA Q-School.
Reach Ann Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org.