Sunday, January 11, 2004


Vijay Singh created a cloud of sand when he hit out of a bunker on the ninth green of the Plantation Course yesterday during the Mercedes Championships in Kapalua, Maui. Singh is in second place after shooting a 4-under 69.

Appleby heads
worldly Mercedes

At fifth place, Tiger Woods
has the best score
among Americans

KAPALUA, Maui >> The foreign flags were staked at nearly every green during yesterday's third round of the $5.3 million Mercedes Championships.

While the Americans are well-represented among the 30 golfers here, they could do little to halt the foreign contingent that has dominated this season-opening event on the PGA Tour.

Mercedes Championships

Third-round leaders
Stuart Appleby 66-67-66 -- 199
Vijay Singh 68-64-69 -- 201
Retief Goosen 70-70-64 -- 204
Darren Clarke 67-69-69 -- 205
Tiger Woods 71-70-65 -- 206
Scott Hoch 68-71-69 -- 208
Kirk Triplett 68-69-71 -- 208

Stuart Appleby didn't let Vijay Singh's birdie binge on Friday or Tiger Woods' steady charge yesterday keep him from his rightful position atop the leaderboard. One of the most talented Aussies since the days of Greg Norman, Appleby has an opportunity to add the most prestigious victory to his resume.

But he'll have to hold off his fellow foreigners to do it.

Despite a stellar 66 that left him at 20-under 199 for the tournament, he wasn't able to run away and hide from Fiji's Singh (69--201), South African Retief Goosen (64--204) or Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke (69--205). Woods put the first American flag on the board with a 65. But even he would have to post a miracle round to overtake the out-of-country lads in front of him.

"I'll just be going out, doing what I'm doing," Appleby said. "I can't really do anything else but that. That's certainly working for me. Get the golfing gods on my side. What everyone else does is up to them."

Everyone else hasn't been as steady and true as Appleby, who had eight birdies and only one bogey in yesterday's windy conditions. The 32-year-old began the day one shot behind Singh, whose 69 yesterday was a far cry from the 64 he carved out on Friday.

Appleby drew even with Singh with a birdie on the opening hole, then passed him for good after Singh, ranked No. 2 in the world behind Woods, bogeyed the par-3 second. It was pretty much match play all day for the final twosome, with Appleby opening a three-shot advantage with a birdie at 13.

"I think all the players, some very good top players in the world, everyone here knows how to play, knows what it's like to win," Appleby said. "There are some good players out here. You just have to keep your wits about yourself."

Singh knows all about managing your emotions. After birdieing eight of the final nine holes on Friday, his putts weren't falling with a great deal of regularity yesterday.

"I think I made all mine (on Friday)," Singh said. "I didn't play badly at all. I mean, I two-putted both bogeys. On the par 5s, I made birdies, so I birdied all of them today. But I'm looking forward to (today). I need things to go well and I need the putter to get hot like it did (on Friday)."

Goosen had a hot streak of his own on the front nine. While he didn't make seven straight as Singh did on Friday, the 2001 U.S. Open champion did have four in a row and five of six en route to a frontside 30. Paired with Woods, Goosen fashioned a 64, equaling what Singh shot on Friday.

"The front nine probably plays easier with this wind," Goosen said. "The back nine plays a bit tougher in these conditions. I just have to go out and try to shoot a similar score tomorrow and see where I wind up."

Several Americans did well in the early going, including 2001 champion Jim Furyk, who has a home off the 18th fairway. He began the round at 5 under, but quickly moved to 11 under for the tourney with six birdies on the front nine, including five in a row.

The back nine wasn't nearly as kind. After birdieing the 16th to move to 12 under, Furyk yanked his second shot at 18 into the bushes. He was so close to his home, his wife could have called him in for supper.

"I probably hit the wrong club; I was trying to force a 3-wood in there," said Furyk, who wound up with a double bogey on the easiest hole on the course. It dropped him into a tie for eighth, one shot behind Scott Hoch and Kirk Triplett, who are tied for sixth at 208. "It was a severe downhill lie. And, like an idiot, I kind of went after it with a 3-wood."

The bad shot selection kept him from being a contender today. Only Woods has a chance to break up the foreign block as the golfers head for home with Appleby on the lead.

"I'm capable of running away with it tomorrow," Appleby said. "But I'd like to think the other guys would be nice to me, though, wouldn't they? Would they help me out a bit? No, I'm not too concerned about worrying about that if you have that scenario drawn out for you in the last hour of the day. Again, we're talking about some of the best golfers in the world."

Third-round scores

At Kapalua, Maui
Purse: $5.3 million
Stuart Appleby 66-67-66 -- 199
Vijay Singh 68-64-69 -- 201
Retief Goosen 70-70-64 -- 204
Darren Clarke 67-69-69 -- 205
Tiger Woods 71-70-65 -- 206
Scott Hoch 68-71-69 -- 208
Kirk Triplett 68-69-71 -- 208
Jim Furyk 70-71-68 -- 209
Davis Love III 69-71-69 -- 209
Jonathan Kaye 74-70-66 -- 210
Shaun Micheel 70-71-69 -- 210
J.L. Lewis 70-71-69 -- 210
Ben Crane 71-74-66 -- 211
Adam Scott 69-74-68 -- 211
Chad Campbell 71-76-65 -- 212
Kenny Perry 73-71-68 -- 212
Justin Leonard 68-73-71 -- 212
John Huston 69-72-71 -- 212
Shigeki Maruyama 69-72-72 -- 213
Fred Couples 69-72-72 -- 213
Mike Weir 71-70-73 -- 214
Peter Jacobsen 70-71-73 -- 214
Ernie Els 73-70-73 -- 216
Steve Flesch 73-72-72 -- 217
Tommy Armour III 73-71-73 -- 217
Craig Stadler 73-78-68 -- 219
Frank Lickliter II 73-76-70 -- 219
Rory Sabbatini 73-74-74 -- 221
Bob Tway 76-74-72 -- 222
Ben Curtis 73-80-70 -- 223


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