Appleby Holds Off Singh at Mercedes

By Sports NetworkJanuary 11, 2004, 5:00 pm
04 Mercedes ChampionshipsKAPALUA, Hawaii -- Stuart Appleby parred the final two holes Sunday to hold off Vijay Singh and win the Mercedes Championships. Appleby closed with a two-under 71 to finish at 22-under-par 270.
 
Singh finished with a three-under 70 to end the event at 21-under-par 271. Darren Clarke finished a distant third at 17-under-par 275.
 
'The end of last year, I really tried to switch off for the little period. I had to have a break. I guess that wasn't something I was doing when I was having a lot of seconds,' said Appleby, who has finished in the top-two in four of his last six events. 'I was just nose to the ground and go. I think my game was really inside me this week. I felt very confident the way I was hitting it.'
 
Appleby held a two-shot lead entering the day and with his play on the front nine, it didn't look like he would have any trouble holding that lead. However, Singh caught fire on the back nine to put pressure on the Australian.
 
Appleby rolled home back-to-back birdies from the fourth to climb to minus-22 and gain a five-stroke lead as Singh had dropped a stroke on No. 2.
 
The lead continued to grow from there. Appleby went birdie, bogey, birdie from the seventh, while Singh bogeyed No. 8 and birdied No. 9 to give Appleby a six-stroke cushion heading to the back side.
 
From there, it started to get interesting. Appleby managed just back-to-back pars from the 10th before dropping a stroke on No. 12 to fall back to 22- under.
 
Singh opened the back side with four straight pars. The Fijian, who ran off seven birdies in a row to end the second round, began to make his move at the 14th.
 
He made birdie there to get within four shots of Appleby. Singh got up-and- down for birdie on the par-five 15th. He then made the first birdie of the day on the 16th to close within two shots.
 
Appleby, who was inside Singh on the 16th green, could only manage a two-putt par. He did the same at the next hole, as did Singh, sending the two to the last hole with Appleby ahead by two.
 
Both men hit huge drives on the 663-yard closing hole on the Plantation Course at the Kapalua Resort. The duo both missed the green short to the right.
 
Appleby pitched his third within 15 feet of the cup. Singh, electing to putt from the fairway, nearly rolled home a monstrous eagle putt, but his effort narrowly slid by the right edge.
 
Appleby, who led the field this week averaging 27.5 putts per round, calmly two-putted for par and Singh's tap-in birdie meant only that he finished one- shot back instead of two.
 
'Vijay hadn't really made much at all on the front nine, but I did realize that Vijay was never going to go away,' said Appleby, who claimed $1,060,000 for the win. 'It was looking like the cards were falling my way with him missing and me making a couple.
 
'By the same token, I knew I just had to do my own thing. Then Vijay closed in with some birdies, some very good birdies. I didn't make any mistakes. Eventually to my benefit, he ran out of holes to really catch me, and I just had to really play smart coming in in pretty trying conditions all day.'
 
'I didn't get a lot going on the front nine, you know, I played it two-over, and you can't do that,' said Singh. 'I had a lot of chances but Stuart played really well. He made the putts that he needed to and he deserved to win.'
 
Singh, who had nine top-two finishes last season, gave it a go on the 72nd hole, but his putt just missed on the right edge.
 
'I just said give it a go, you never know,' said Singh, who played the three par-threes in four-over par. 'The putter took a lot away from me this week, but I thought it owed me one. The putt looked good for a long time, but it broke away at the end.'
 
Tiger Woods and Retief Goosen shared fourth place at 15-under-par 277. The $275,000 paycheck for Woods put him over the $40 million mark for career earnings with $40,052,265. He is the first golfer to reach that plateau.
 
Kirk Triplett finished alone in sixth place at 14-under-par 278. Adam Scott finished one stroke behind him at minus-13. Scott Hoch closed with a 72 to end at 12-under-par 280.
 
Davis Love III, who bombed a 476-yard drive on the 18th hole Sunday, the longest drive of the week, shot a 72 on Sunday to share ninth place with Ben Crane at 11-under-par 281.
 
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    DJ: Kapalua win means nothing for Abu Dhabi

    By Associated PressJanuary 17, 2018, 2:55 pm

    ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Dustin Johnson's recent victory in Hawaii doesn't mean much when it comes to this week's tournament.

    The top-ranked American will play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for the second straight year. But this time he is coming off a victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which he won by eight shots.

    ''That was two weeks ago. So it really doesn't matter what I did there,'' said Johnson, who finished runner-up to Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi last year. ''This is a completely new week and everybody starts at even par and so I've got to start over again.''

    In 2017, the long-hitting Johnson put himself in contention despite only making one eagle and no birdies on the four par-5s over the first three rounds.

    ''The par 5s here, they are not real easy because they are fairly long, but dependent on the wind, I can reach them if I hit good tee balls,'' the 2016 U.S. Open champion said. ''Obviously, I'd like to play them a little better this year.''

    The tournament will see the return of Paul Casey as a full member of the European Tour after being away for three years.

    ''It's really cool to be back. What do they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Quite cheesy, but no, really, really cool,'' said the 40-year-old Englishman, who is now ranked 14th in the world. ''When I was back at the Open Championship at Birkdale, just the reception there, playing in front of a home crowd, I knew this is something I just miss.''

    The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starts Thursday and also features former No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who is making a comeback after more than three months off.

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    Kuchar joins European Tour as affiliate member

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 2:52 pm

    Months after he nearly captured the claret jug, Matt Kuchar has made plans to play a bit more golf in Europe in 2018.

    Kuchar is in the field this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told reporters in advance of the opening round that he has opted to join the European Tour as an affiliate member:

    As an affiliate member, Kuchar will not have a required minimum number of starts to make. It's the same membership status claimed last year by Kevin Na and Jon Rahm, the latter of whom then became a full member and won two European Tour events in 2017.

    Kuchar made six European Tour starts last year, including his runner-up performance at The Open. He finished T-4 at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in his lone European Tour start that wasn't co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour.

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    Hot Seat: Rory jumps into the fire early

    By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 2:11 pm

    The world’s top tours head to desert regions this week, perfect locales for The Hot Seat, the gauge upon which we measure the level of heat the game’s top personalities are facing ...

    Sahara sizzle: Rory McIlroy

    McIlroy won’t have to look far to see how his form measures up to world No. 1 Dustin Johnson at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    McIlroy will make his 2018 debut with Johnson in his face, literally.

    McIlroy will be grouped with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood in the first two rounds.

    Players like to downplay pairings early in a tournament, but it’s hard to believe McIlroy and Johnson won’t be trying to send each other messages in this European Tour event in the United Arab Emirates. That’s the alpha-dog nature of world-class players looking to protect their turf, or in the case of McIlroy, take back his turf.

    “When you are at the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Trevor Immelman said about pairings during Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge last month.

    And that was an offseason event.

    “They want to show this guy, ‘This is what I got,’” Immelman said.

    As early season matchups go, Abu Dhabi is a heavyweight pairing that ought to be fun.

    So there will be no easing into the new year for McIlroy after taking off the last three months to regroup from the stubborn rib injury that plagued him last season. He is coming off a winless year, and he will be doing so alongside a guy who just won the first PGA Tour event of 2018 in an eight-shot rout. Johnson’s victory in Hawaii two weeks ago was his fifth since McIlroy last won.

    “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place, and that was because of where I was physically,” McIlroy said of 2017. “I feel prepared now. I feel ready, and I feel ready to challenge. I feel really good about where I’m at with my health. I’ve put all that behind me, which has been great.”



    Sonoran Smolder: Phil Mickelson

    Mickelson will turn 48 this summer.

    His world ranking is sliding, down to No. 43 now, which is the lowest he has ranked in 24 years.

    It’s been more than four years since he last won, making him 0 for his last 92 starts.

    There’s motivation in all of that for Mickelson. He makes his 2018 debut at the CareerBuilder Challenge in the Palm Springs area this week talking like a man on a renewed mission.

    There’s a Ryder Cup team to make this season, which would be his 12th straight, and there’s a career Grand Slam to claim, with the U.S. Open returning to Shinnecock Hills, where Mickelson finished second in ’04.

    While Mickelson may not feel old, there are so many young stars standing in his way that it’s hard not to be constantly reminded that time isn’t on his side in these events anymore.

    There has only been one player in the history of the game to win a major championship who was older than Mickelson is right now. Julius Boros won the PGA Championship when he was 48 back in 1968.



    Campaign fever: Jordan Spieth

    Spieth’s respect in the game’s ranks extends outside the ropes.

    He was just selected to run for the PGA Tour Player Advisory Council’s chairman position. He is facing Billy Hurley III in an election to see who will succeed Davis Love III on the Tour’s Policy Board next year.

    Spieth, just 24, has already made Time Magazine’s list of the “100 Most Influential People.” He made that back in 2016, with the magazine writing that “he exemplifies everything that’s great about sports.” Sounds like a campaign slogan.

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    CareerBuilder Challenge: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 1:10 pm

    The PGA Tour shifts from Hawaii to Southern California for the second full-field event of the year. Here are the key stats and information for the CareerBuilder Challenge. Click here for full-field tee times.

    How to watch (all rounds on Golf Channel):

    Thursday, Rd. 1: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

    Friday, Rd. 2: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

    Saturday, Rd. 3: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

    Sunday, Rd. 4: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream


    Purse: $5.9 million ($1,062,000 to winner)

    Courses: PGA West, Stadium Course, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,113); PGA West, Nicklaus Tournament Course, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,159); La Quinta Country Club, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,060) NOTE: All three courses will be used for the first three rounds but only the Stadium Course will be used for the final round.

    Defending champion: Hudson Swafford (-20) - defeated Adam Hadwin by one stroke to earn his first PGA Tour win.


    Notables in the field

    Phil Mickelson

    * This is his first start of 2018. It's the fourth consecutive year he has made this event the first one on his yearly calendar.

    * For the second year in a row he will serve as the tournament's official ambassador.

    * He has won this event twice - in 2002 and 2004.

    * This will be his 97th worldwide start since his most recent win, The Open in 2013.


    Jon Rahm

    * Ranked No. 3 in the world, he finished runner-up in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

    * In 37 worldwide starts as a pro, he has 14 top-5 finishes.

    * Last year he finished T-34 in this event.


    Adam Hadwin

    * Last year in the third round, he shot 59 at La Quinta Country Club. It was the ninth - and still most recent - sub-60 round on Tour.

    * In his only start of 2018, the Canadian finished 32nd in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.


    Brian Harman

    * Only player on the PGA Tour with five top-10 finishes this season.

    * Ranks fifth in greens in regulation this season.

    * Finished third in the Sentry Tournament of Champions and T-4 in the Sony Open in Hawaii.


    Brandt Snedeker

    * Making only his third worldwide start since last June at the Travelers Championship. He has been recovering from a chest injury.

    * This is his first start since he withdrew from the Indonesian Masters in December because of heat exhaustion.

    * Hasn't played in this event since missing the cut in 2015.


    Patrick Reed

    * Earned his first career victory in this event in 2014, shooting three consecutive rounds of 63.

    * This is his first start of 2018.

    * Last season finished seventh in strokes gained: putting, the best ranking of his career.

    (Stats provided by the Golf Channel editorial research unit.)