Stuart Appleby became the fifth golfer since 1971 to win the same tournament three consecutive times when he edged Vijay Singh in a playoff yesterday at the Plantation Course.
The Aussie beats Singh on the first hole of a playoff for his third straight victory at Kapalua
KAPALUA, Maui » Put Stuart Appleby in the record books.
Fighting off a huge charge by world No. 2 Vijay Singh, Appleby sank a 3-footer for birdie on the first playoff hole to become the 16th person in history and fifth since 1971 to win the same tournament three consecutive times.
But it wasn't easy.
Singh singed the stingy Plantation Course with a 7-under 66 and was poised to win his first Mercedes Championships in 10 tries with an 8-under 284. A bogey at the 17th by Singh opened the door for Appleby, who staggered home with a 2-under 71 that included a birdie at the 18th to draw even with Singh.
On the first playoff hole, Singh hit a perfect 394-yard drive on the par-5 green monster to give Appleby something to think about. He responded with a 383-yard drive of his own, but his 3-iron approach into the green was too hot and wound up 32 feet from the hole in the back bunker.
Singh followed with a 5-iron that he played wide right, but came up just short of the green, a good 111 feet from the hole. Hitting first, Singh elected to putt, coming up 9 feet short, giving Appleby new life.
Stuart Appleby celebrated after defeating Vijay Singh in a playoff yesterday to win his third straight Mercedes Championships title.
Hitting only his second shot from a bunker all week, Appleby almost knocked it in, easing it 3 feet by, leaving Singh with the more difficult birdie chance. Singh's shot didn't find the hole, leaving Appleby with a relatively easy putt to win the event for the third straight time.
"I'm short of words," Appleby said. "To win it? First time, great. Second time, awesome. Third time, it's the wrong English, but more awesomer.
"I've never had to be in a playoff for this event here. Against Vijay, he was obviously the hottest player by far for the day. I knew I just had to make, in the playoff, a birdie or an eagle. Here I am. This was by far the most difficult conditions of the three."
And that's what made Singh's 66 so special. It was only the second round in the 60s all week and bested Olin Browne's opening 69 on Thursday by three shots. After parring the first four holes, Singh eagled the par-5 fifth and birdied Nos. 6, 8, 12, 15, 16 and 18 to move one shot clear of Appleby.
The Australian's round wasn't nearly as spectacular, but he did have an eagle at No. 5, before bogeying the seventh and 11th holes to fall back to 6 under for the tournament. Appleby birdied No. 12, but gave it back at the 13th, before birdieing Nos. 15 and 18 to draw even with Singh.
"Vijay was obviously far enough ahead of me where he could have done something without me knowing," Appleby said. "I didn't sense anybody doing anything."
But Singh was certainly doing something and that was taking a one-shot lead over Appleby twice before the Australian made up the difference to force the playoff. Once there, it was Appleby who made the shots that counted most.
"I hit a perfect second shot," Singh said of his approach at the 18th during the playoff. "It just didn't move enough. It's very soft there (at the front of the green). I knew I just wanted to turn it a little more. You know, 3 yards left would have been up there somewhere."
Instead, he wound up just short of the green, some 37 yards from the pin.
"I hit a poor putt, you know?" Singh said. "I could have got it closer than that. All week, the ball has been going so fast. Today, for some reason, it didn't."
Jim Furyk took third place, finishing four strokes behind Stuart Appleby and Vijay Singh.
There were only six golfers who managed to break par this week, thanks in part to the resurfaced greens and the blustery breezes that blew hard all four rounds. Jim Furyk, who won the Mercedes in 2001, shot his fourth straight 72 to finish 4 under for the week and in third place, four shots behind Appleby and Singh.
"I probably had a better opportunity today to shoot a good score," Furyk said. "As good an opportunity today as I've had all week. I kept trying, but it just wasn't going in the hole for me."
U.S. Open winner Michael Campbell, who was tied with Appleby at 6 under as they walked toward the 12th tee, hit his drive in the high grass and never recovered. He double bogeyed that hole and had three consecutive bogeys at Nos. 15, 16 and 17, before birdieing the last to finish in a tie for fourth with Vaughn Taylor at 2-under 290.
Taylor's final-round 71 was one of only six in the red on the last day. Lucas Glover birdied two of the final four holes to finish 1 under for the tournament and place sixth. But this one belonged to Appleby.
Since 1971, only Jack Nicklaus, Johnny Miller, Tom Watson and Tiger Woods have won the same event three times in a row. Appleby accomplished that feat in no wind and on grainy greens for two years, then came back to grind it out in the wind and on the well-documented, retooled greens this year.
"The putt was a lot harder than the bunker shot, I thought," Appleby said of his final two shots of the tournament. "I don't know. I was happy in the bunker. I had a similar sort of putt. When you have putts like that, they get your attention.
"Your heart's pounding. You just have to sit there and say, 'I've hit this putt a thousand times. I've got to hit it again.' "