Appleby will get to play in Sony this time
|||Appleby rules as King of Kapalua|
By Bill Kwon
Special to The Advertiser
By Bill Kwon
KAPALUA, Maui — Last year, Stuart Appleby won the Mercedes Championships but couldn't make it over to the Sony Open in Hawai'i because he had to rush back home to Australia for the birth of his first child.
"This time I got a bit more time," said Appleby, who made it three Mercedes titles in a row with a playoff victory over Vijay Singh at the wind-whipped Plantation Course, which played two strokes over its par-73 yesterday.
"I'm looking forward to playing at Waialae," Appleby said. There's no rush because his wife Ashley isn't due until March with their second child.
He lost some momentum from his victory here last year because of the birth of his daughter, Ella, and didn't get to play much earlier in the year. This time his schedule's fine, with a lot of tournaments on the Florida swing, because his young daughter can now travel.
Playing a few more tournaments should result in a better 2006, according to Appleby.
For now, he's the "King of Kapalua," which has a nice ring to it, Appleby says.
Appleby collected his third million-dollar paycheck in as many years with a birdie on the first playoff hole, the par-5 18th, after he and Singh had finished at 284, the highest winning score since the Mercedes event moved here in 1999.
But Appleby would like to be known as more than just a Mercedes champion.
His only victories in 2004 and 2005 came here.
This week at Waialae is as good a time as any to do something about it as Appleby hopes to become the first player since Ernie Els in 2003 to start the PGA season with back-to-back victories.
Appleby and Singh, who's the Sony Open defending champion, are among the 22 players from here who'll be playing in the PGA Tour's first full-field event starting Thursday at what they hope will be a friendlier Waialae Country Club.
Appleby, however, doesn't mind if the winds continue to blow as fiercely at Waialae as they did coming off the West Maui Mountains to create four days of havoc with the scoring.
Nobody had a bogey-free round and only six players broke par. Ten of the 28 players in the field shot in double-figures in relation to par with Jason Gore bringing up the rear with a 28-over 320. At least Gore broke 80 for the first time yesterday.
"The wind was my friend, I don't mind it blowing next week," said Appleby, who said the playing conditions made this the most difficult of his three victories.
Appleby had no clue how Singh shot his 6-under 66, the tournament's best round and only one of two in the 60s posted all week, to overcome a five-shot deficit and force the playoff.
"I thought it would just be me and Cambo (Michael Campbell). Obviously, Vijay came from deeper in the pack for even you guys "would have thought."
Evidently, even Singh. He didn't bother to show up for interviews after his round.
But it was all Appleby anyway.
Winning it the first time was great, he said. A second time awesome.
The third time, "more awesomer."
And the hardest of the three as well because of the windy conditions that made it not only a physical but a mental challenge.
"Look at the scores. They were way worse than we've, well, than I can remember," Appleby said.
Good thing he knew what he was doing. And in the end, he was still the King of Kapalua.
"Someone said to me this morning, 'You don't need to buy property (here). You own the golf course.' "
He sure did, windy conditions and all.