HONOLULU – For the second straight day, Stuart Appleby plodded along the soft fairways of Waialae until he closed strong with improbable shots for eagle or a string of birdies.
That recipe could really come in handy Sunday.
Appleby, who holed out with a 5-iron for eagle on the 16th hole in the opening round, chipped in from 90 feet across the green on the par-3 seventh Saturday. That was part of a birdie-birdie-birdie finish for a 4-under 66 and a share of the lead with Shigeki Maruyama.
But the tournament is only half over.
Because of rain that washed out play Thursday, the Sony Open will try to finish Sunday with a 36-hole finale.
“A bit of a crap shoot,” Appleby said. “There’s a lot of guys in this tournament, absolutely. So it’ll be a very interesting finish.”
If the trade wind ever arrives, just about everybody is still in the hunt.
Appleby and Maruyama, who had his second straight 65, were at 10-under 130. They were one shot clear of Roland Thatcher (65), Steve Marino (67) and Mark Wilson (67). Another shot back was a group that included Justin Rose (68) and Matt Kuchar (68), who has picked up from last year when he won the PGA Tour money title and Vardon Trophy for lowest scoring average.
The cut was at 1-under 139, and 83 players will get paid.
But because of the 36-hole final, the playing cut was the number of players nearest to 60. With late birdies by Daniel Summerhays and Matt McQuillan, that cut was 56 player at 3-under 137.
That knocked out the likes of Vijay Singh and Zach Johnson.
The gap between top to bottom at the start of Sunday will be seven shots, which can easily be made up over 36 holes.
“Guys can win from seven and eight back on days like that,” said Davis Love III, who shot a 66 and was only four behind. “That makes it interesting. It’s whoever gets hot with the putter.”
The 41-year-old Maruyama, who hasn’t won on the PGA Tour since 2003, loves playing Waialae because the size of his Japanese gallery is larger than usual and there usually isn’t a premium on power along the palm tree-lined fairways.
He’s not sure about Sunday, however. He looked at his shoes and said with a laugh, “My feet. It’s a problem.”
“I’m getting older, and 36 holes is going to be a struggle,” Maruyama.
What should help is the flat property of Waialae, an old-styled course near the shores of Waikiki Beach.
Anthony Kim matched the low score of the day with a 64 to reach 5-under 135. He was tied with Ernie Els, who might have an advantage based on his experience – not only from winning at Waialae, but playing 36 holes on the last day.
Els faced a 36-hole final round just last month in winning the South African Open. And not many will forget that 36-hole final at Bay Hill in 1998 when he overwhelmed Tiger Woods and Love in the final group.
“That turned out good,” Els said, smiling. “I’m kind of looking forward to tomorrow. I’ve got a month off after tomorrow, and I’d like to let it all hang out.”
Just like his opening round, Appleby wasn’t doing much overly exciting. He was 1 under for his round with three holes to play when he chipped in for an improbable birdie on the seventh. Then came an approach to 2 feet on the next hole for a tap-in birdie, and he reached the green in two on the par-5 ninth for a two-putt birdie and a share of the lead.
“Tomorrow, we’ve got a bit of a sprint, even though it’s going to take us all day,” Appleby said.
It’s not unusual for the PGA Tour to cut to the nearest number of players to 60. The priority always is to finish on Sunday, and that’s the first option mentioned in its guidelines.
But it could lead to an awkward finish. Love recalls early in his career playing the Colonial, which Keith Clearwater won by three shots despite finishing on the ninth hole in the final round.
Els, for example, will be in the first group off Sunday morning on the first tee. There will be no time to change the groups based on third-round scores, so the South African will finish on the ninth hole.
“Anybody who’s made the cut has got a decent change to play for the championship tomorrow,” Thatcher said.