Notes Aussies second home No Zach attack

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WGC-Bridgestone - 125wAKRON, Ohio ' His passport says he was born in Australia and he lives in Florida but northeastern Ohio has become almost a second home for Stuart Appleby.
 
That goes beyond how comfortable he feels playing in the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, just a few rescue-club shots from the city limits sign.
 
The 37-year-old Applebys wife, Ashley, is from nearby Canton. They met at the 2000 Bridgestone and now have daughters Ella and Mia and another child ' this one a boy ' due in late October.
 
So even though his voice is straight out of Crocodile Dundee, the Aussie farm boy feels right at home in Americas Rust Belt.
 
Ive been here for so many years now Ive sort of got a rhythm to this place, he said Saturday after shooting a 3-under 67 that left him at 7-under 203 and a shot back of co-leaders Lee Westwood, Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh. Probably a lot more demand for tickets. Yeah, Im comfortable, familiar. Its good to be here.
 
Appleby has two top 10s at Firestone and has won more than $700,000 at the Bridgestone and its predecessor, the NEC Invitational.
 
He said a half a dozen family members followed him around the course.
 
Now hes on the cusp of his first PGA TOUR win since the Shell Houston Open two years ago ' and is reassured because he feels as if hes almost at home.
 
Its a good golf course, and obviously for family reasons its great for them, so Im very pleased, he said.
 
A STEP BACK
 
After rounds of 67 and 68, which led him to believe that he had reversed a recent slump, former Masters champion Zach Johnson dropped back with a 2-over 72 Saturday at the Bridgestone.
 
Johnson isnt a long hitter and, at 7,400 yards, Firestone Country Club is a long course. The slightest misfire off the tee can lead to trouble.
 
Its one of those things that if I dont get the ball in the fairway here its hard for me to score, he said. Im not exactly the best of rough players and when I have longer clubs and irons out of the rough into these greens, its very, very difficult. That was frustrating.
 
The last two years at the Bridgestone, Johnson has faltered after playing well through 36 holes.
 
Im really disappointed. It seems like Ive done that a lot here ' put myself in position going into the weekend three or four times already now, he said.
 
At 3-under 207 and just five shots behind the leaders, he remains hopeful.
 
A good round tomorrow, you never know what might happen, he said.
 
TRYING TOO HARD
 
Darren Clarke may have had a revelation in matching the low round of the day and the tournament with his 5-under 65 in Saturdays third round of the Bridgestone.
 
All summer long Ive pushed and pushed and pushed and tried too hard and practiced too hard and worked too hard, Clarke said after matching Hidemasa Hoshinos 65. Ive wanted to play too well too much, whereas now Im (trying to) just play and enjoy it and see what that brings.
 
Relaxing obviously pays dividends. Clarke started the second round tied for 35th and now finds himself in a logjam for sixth, four shots off the lead heading into the final round.
 
It could have been even better. Clarke failed to get up and down after missing the green short and left on the par-4 closing hole and had to settle for a bogey.
 
A win in Akron would be nothing new for Clarke ' he won at Firestone in 2003 and was third two years before that. Since hes 25th on the European Ryder Cup team points list, he needs to do exceptionally well in the final round and in the near future to harbor even a remote chance of making the team outright or as a captains pick.
 
I need to come out here, playing this week and next week (the PGA Championship at Oakland Hills), and those two weeks at home (the Dutch Open and Johnnie Walker Classic) I have to play well if I even want to be considered, he said. If I do start playing well like I did today, I think I would be an addition to the team. If I dont play well, I would not be. I would not expect a pick. I just want to play as well as I can and see where it takes me.
 
YOU NOT THE MAN
 
Dont count Appleby as one of the people who finds Get in the hole! the height of enlightened comment by gallery members.
 
That really drives me crazy because thats something that should only happen over here, at least ' no more than that, he said. When you hear an Englishman or an Irishman yell out Get in the hole! I think golf has gone too far.
 
DIVOTS
 
The deadlock at the top was the first three-way tie through 54 holes for a World Golf Championship event. Only three European Tour members (Clarke, Ernie Els, Henrik Stenson) have won WGC events. Singh has led through three rounds 30 previous times on the PGA TOUR and has won 17 times. In the Bridgestones nine years, a player has come off the lead in the final round to win the tournament on three occasions. Each time, that player was Tiger Woods, in 2001 and each of the past two years.
 
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