Historic win for Appleby
By ANDREW BOTH
STUART Appleby is the king of Kapalua, just the second man in 25 years to win the same US PGA Tour event in three successive years.
Appleby won the $US5.4 million Mercedes Championship in clutch fashion yesterday, making a timely birdie at the first extra hole to outlast fast-finishing Vijay Singh at the Kapalua Plantation course.
Tiger Woods is the only other player to have scored a hat-trick since Tom Watson won the Byron Nelson Classic from 1978-80, Woods doing it twice and also winning the Bay Hill Invitational four times in a row.
Appleby didn't win anywhere else the past two years, but something about Maui obviously brings out the best in his game, as he showed by overcoming the windiest conditions since the tournament moved to this Pacific island in 1999.
"This one was the hardest test, mentally and physically, because it was a real windy week," Appleby said after collecting $US1,080,000 and a Mercedes-Benz S550 for his seventh US Tour victory.
"This tournament slapped everybody around at certain times. The guy who wasn't going to get slapped enough was going to win. I was playing well coming into this event and I tried to put myself in the moment of the previous two years, 12 rounds linked up together like there was no break."
But it wasn't easy for the 34year-old Victorian, as Singh threw the kitchen sink at him, posting a brilliant seven-under-par 66, easily the best round of the week, to come from five shots behind and post an eight-under 284 total.
Appleby didn't realise he was behind until he looked at a leaderboard on the 16th hole: "I thought I was probably in the lead," he said. "Vijay I thought was a little bit out of the radar. It was like, 'Holy cow, he can't do this. This is our tournament. We've got to find a way'."
He did so, with a little help from Singh, who bogeyed the parfour 17th before making a tap-in birdie at the last, which Appleby duly matched by calmly sinking a putt from little more than one metre.
It was back to the par-five 18th for the play-off where Appleby sent his second shot into a greenside bunker, from where he launched an exquisite explosion that nearly went in, before settling less than a metre from the cup.
Singh, meanwhile, had come up short of the green with his second shot and his first putt stopped three metres short. From there he missed his birdie attempt, leaving Appleby to tap in for victory.
Appleby's performance comes hard on the heels of good friend Robert Allenby's unprecedented triple crown in Australia at the end of last year, which begged the question of who is the best Australian golfer with a surname that starts with 'A'.
Appleby, however, wasn't biting: "I'm Australia's best golfer in Hawaii," he said. "No-one comes close to me."
It remains to be seen whether Appleby can take his form to the US mainland.