Appleby on way to third straight win at Kapalua


Published: Sunday, January 8, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 8, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
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Stuart Appleby tees off on the third tee during the third day of the Mercedes Championships in Kapalua, Hawaii, on Saturday. Appleby leads the event by two strokes.

The Associated Press
KAPALUA, Hawaii - Whether they change the greens or change the calendar, it doesn't seem to matter to Stuart Appleby. Whenever he gets to Kapalua for the Mercedes Championships, he looks unstoppable.
On another blustery day that severely tested the 28-man field of last year's PGA Tour winners, Appleby was steady as ever Saturday and birdied three of his last six holes for a 3-under 70 and a two-shot lead over U.S. Open champion Michael Campbell.
Appleby was an inch from the green on the 663-yard closing hole, gently rolled a putt to tap-in range for birdie and walked off the Plantation Course at 6-under 213, in prime position to become the first player in nearly 50 years to win the winners-only event three straight times.
Campbell overcame a sluggish start by playing bogey-free over the final 12 holes and shot 71, putting him in the final group with Appleby for the second straight day.
Jim Furyk, a past winner at Kapalua, birdied on the two par 5s coming in for a 72 and was at 3-under 216.
Only a half-dozen players were under par, and only one Kapalua rookie was in that mix. Lucas Glover needed some magic getting there, with a hole-in-one on the 203-yard eighth hole - for a 70 to finish at 217.
Vijay Singh (74) and Sergio Garcia (73) each birdied the last hole to get to 218.
"If you just miss it, you're going to hit it way worse than you think," Singh said. "It was a grind. Putts like 3 or 4 feet it's like, 'Please, hit a good, solid stroke."'
Scoring has always been low at Kapalua since the tournament moved here in 1999, with the highest winning score coming in 2000 when Tiger Woods beat Ernie Els in a playoff after they finished at 16 under.
This looks more like a U.S. Open - on the scoreboard and inside the ropes.
Not even the crashing surf below can put these guys at ease, as they battle wind that makes it difficult to stand still and greens that are firm and fast, making it tough to get the ball close to the hole.
That hasn't stopped Appleby. The Australian walked off the course wondering why he left so many shots out there, although he had few complaints about a 70, which matched Glover for the low round of the day.
The average score was 75.04, the second-toughest behind Friday's average of 75.5.
"I don't think anybody was expecting this kind of a battle the first week of the year," Mark Calcavecchia said. "I certainly wasn't. I'm exhausted."
That was after a 73, courtesy of only the second eagle of the week on a 15-foot putt on the 18th.
The other eagle was even better. Glover, 4 over after his first four holes of the year and struggling at the start of every round, hit a 5-iron from 203 yards that bounced twice and probably would have run through the green if not for hitting the pin and dropping straight down into the cup.
It was the first ace in the eight-year history at Kapalua, and he won a Mercedes-Benz worth $83,375.
"I don't know what happened," Glover said. "I was just trying to get it up on that top level. That's a tough hole with that wind. It lined up pretty good, then it was just a matter of distance, whether a wind hit it right or not."
It put the 26-year-old into contention, just four shots behind on a course where anything can happen. Even so, Glover and everyone else in range of Appleby will need some help from the Aussie.
On grainy greens or smooth greens, breezy conditions or gale-force wind, he is proving to be the king of Kapalua. Appleby dropped only one shot Saturday, that coming on the par-3 second hole with a three-putt from 50 feet.
Appleby made seven straight pars to hold his position, then gave himself some separation on two holes. Dead into the wind on No. 13, he managed to keep his approach below the cup and holed a 12-footer for birdie, then hit another great pitch on the par-5 15th to 6 feet for birdie.
His two-putt from off the green at No. 18 gave him his third straight round under par.
The bigger story was the guys who struggle to break 80. Jason Gore, the feel-good story of 2005 with his collapse at the U.S. Open and quick turnaround to earn a promotion to the PGA Tour, doesn't feel so great this week. He shot 81, leaving him at 22 over and still searching for his first round in the 70s.
Gore is among seven players who are double digits over par.
But it also shows who's on top of their games, with three major champions among those under par, and the two-time defending champion at the top.
The only other player to win the Tournament of Champions three straight times was Gene Littler in 1955-57 when it was played at Desert Inn at Las Vegas.

Glover records first ace, wins car

KAPALUA, Hawaii (AP) - Lucas Glover became the first player to make a hole-in-one in the eight years the Mercedes Championships has been played at Kapalua, using a 5-iron to ace the 203-yard eighth hole.
Glover bent over is disbelief, then exchanged a high-five with playing partner Mark Calcavecchia. Along with getting into contention at the season-opening event, Glover won a Mercedes-Benz CLS55 AMG, with a retail value of $87,375.
Glover got into the field by holing a 35-foot bunker shot on the final hole of the Funai Classic at Disney in October. In the two months since the season ended, he graduated from Clemson and got married. He opened the new season by making bogey on his first four holes, but the ace got him within one shot of the lead.
In this photo released by the Mercedes Championship Golf Tournament, Lucas Glover raises his ball on the eighth green after sinking a hole-in-one during the 3rd round of the Mercedes Championships in Kapalua, Hawaii, Saturday, Jan. 7, 2006. Glover hit a hole-in-one on the 8th hole, the the first ever hole-in-one at the Mercedes Championships since the tournament moved to Kapalua's Plantation Course in 1999. He will receive a 2006 Mercedes-Benz CLS55 AMG. (AP Photo/Eric Larson, HO)

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