Notes Applebys Length Overlooked Maui Return

By Associated PressJanuary 8, 2006, 5:00 pm
04 Mercedes ChampionshipsKAPALUA, Hawaii -- Stuart Appleby hit the longest drive at the Mercedes Championships, a 426-yard tee shot that nearly went through the par-4 12th green.
 
No one should be surprised -- the wind was at his back, the final 150 yards are downhill and the grain of the grass feeds toward the green.

And no one should be surprised that it came from Appleby.
 
He has been ranked among the top 10 in driving distance only once in his 10 years on the PGA Tour, that coming in 2000 when he was eighth. A year ago, Appleby was 19th in distance and averaged 300.6 yards.
 
But one only had to look at the Presidents Cup, where Appleby often ripped it past his partner, Vijay Singh, and one of his opponents, Tiger Woods. And he overpowered Kapalua when he won last year.
 
So why doesn't his name roll off the tongue when talking about the big hitters on the PGA Tour?
 
Appleby is not among those who prefer to bash it and play a shorter shot to the green out of the rough. He likes to control his tee shot, even if that means giving up some length.
 
'I was a pretty long hitter when I was younger,' Appleby said. 'I was pretty wild, too. I had to learn to control the ball a bit more. Then last year, I decided to open up a bit more and I gained a good climb in distance. My length has grown due to some confidence in my swing, and some trusting. Once you get that, you can open it up a bit.'
 
Sure enough, he did give up some accuracy.
 
Appleby was 155th in driving accuracy last year. In 2004, he was 42nd in distance and 125th in accuracy. Then again, it is rare when a power hitter also ranks highly in distance.
 
'It's not likely there's going to be an amazingly straight driver that hits it a mile,' Appleby said. '(Greg) Norman in his day was probably the straightest and the longest. That's the best combination.'
 
RETURN TO KAPALUA
The season-opening Mercedes Championships has been played at Kapalua since 1999. When the 28 winners arrived for this year's event, however, the future of the tournament was unclear .
 
Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Retief Goosen staying home did not help negotiations.
 
But during a gala dinner Friday night that featured Glenn Frey and Joe Walsh, tournament officials said they had reached an agreement with the PGA Tour to return to Kapalua for four to six years.
 
The tour is completing talks with TV partners, although one scenario is the new deal would be six years, not four. Meanwhile, negotiations continue with title sponsor Mercedes.
 
BART DOES AUGUSTA
Bart Bryant had knee surgery to clean out some cartilage two days after winning the Tour Championship. He couldn't playing golf for a month, and then only sparingly.
 
But that didn't keep him from a trip to Augusta National.
 
The 43-year-old Bryant is eligible for the Masters for the first time in his career, and he brought a friend to play with a member the second week of December.
 
'I played about four or five holes each day, then just sat in the cart,' Bryant said. 'I putted on some of the greens, got to see the golf course and get a feel for what it's like.'
 
Bryant realizes it won't be the same Augusta National he sees in April. It was cold, the grass was in the process of its winter overseeding, and it was empty.
 
'It was neat just to drive down Magnolia Lane,' he said. 'You've seen it on TV. It was neat to walk out of the back of the clubhouse, you see 18, you see 9, across down the hill at No. 8 fairway. I'll remember just seeing that panoramic view. That will stick me. When I get there for the Masters, it's going to look totally different because you're going to have people and tents.'
 
Obviously, he's a newcomer to the Masters.
 
It's the only major that doesn't have corporate tents.
 
CHECKMATE
Michael Campbell must have had dinner on his mind when using chess terms to discuss his strategy for the final round of the Mercedes Championships, where he trailed Stuart Appleby by two shots.
 
'I'm just going to pace myself, see what happens,' he said. 'Like a game of chess. Leave my prawns out first, my bishops and the queen can go out there later and go in for the attack.'
 
Prawns?
 
'Sorry, pawns,' he said with a laugh. 'Prawns on the barbie, mate.'
 
AN UPHILL WALK SPOILED
For the last seven years, players have been given a ride in a cart from the fourth tee up a steep hill to the fourth fairway.
 
The reason given by the tour was to help pace of play, although the field rarely has more than 34 players, and this year has only 14 twosomes. And it was peculiar that the tour allowed the carts in 2000, the year the PGA Tour appealed the Casey Martin decision to the Supreme Court.
 
Martin successfully sued the tour to use a cart because of degenerative disease in his right leg.
 
On Friday, Brad Faxon hit his tee shot and kept walking, declining an offer to ride in the cart. This from a man coming off surgery to repair ligaments in his right knee.
 
'It's stupid,' Faxon said as he climbed the hill. 'We should be walking.'
 
Related links:
  • Leaderboard - Mercedes Championships
  • TV Airtimes

  • Full Coverage - Mercedes Championship

  •  
    Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
    Getty Images

    Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

    Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

    While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

    “I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

    Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

    <
    Getty Images

    DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

    Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

    “I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

    Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

    “Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

    Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

    “It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

    Getty Images

    Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

    What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

    Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    “I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

    McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

    He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

    Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

    “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

    Getty Images

    Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

    Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

    Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

    Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

    Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

    Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.