Appleby takes control

2011-01-15 15:01

Waialae - Australian Stuart Appleby surged into a one-shot lead at the weather-hit Sony Open on Friday, despite having had his pre-tournament practice limited to just 20 minutes of swinging a club without a ball.

The 39-year-old covered his final 10 holes in a sizzling six under par at a soggy Waialae Country Club to complete a six-under 64 in the delayed opening round.

Britain's Justin Rose fired a six-birdie 65 to sit level with Australian Mark Leishman, Japan's Shigeki Maruyama and Americans Matt Kuchar, Mark Wilson, Steve Marino, Michael Connell and Tour rookies Nate Smith and Ben Martin.

Defending champion Ryan Palmer opened with a 68 while smooth-swinging South African Ernie Els, winner here in 2003 and 2004, returned a 70.

Four inches of rain earlier in the week had left Waialae waterlogged, forcing practice facilities to be closed and the scheduled first day's play on Thursday to be abandoned.

Although Appleby had the chance to go to a nearby practice range on the eve of the tournament, he had to look after his three children and ended up swinging a sand wedge for 20 minutes on his hotel balcony.

"I don't need to hit balls," he told reporters after carding four birdies and a spectacular eagle two in a flawless display. "I've been here long enough. What am I going to learn that's totally new?

"But I did want to have a swing at something, to have a feel of the swing. So I grabbed a sand wedge, went out on my balcony and checked to make sure I didn't knock any fire extinguishers or anything else.

"That was really my whole practice right there, and I walked about 20 feet back in the door back into my room."

Because of the wet conditions at Waialae, players were permitted to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairway for the opening round.

However, Appleby began quietly with eight successive pars before he birdied the par-five ninth.

He picked up further shots at the 12th, where he chipped in, and 13th before holing out with a five-iron from 163 yards to eagle the par-four 16th.

"I was very lucky to hole that shot from the fairway," Appleby said. "I saw the pitch mark (on the green) and I'm not sure how it went 45 degrees to the left and went in.

"And then I holed a nice 30-plus footer on 17 to sneak a couple of shots lower than expected. With less than two hours to go, it went from a pretty plain round to a good round."

Rose, who tied for 12th at the season-opening Tournament of Champions last week on the Hawaiian island of Maui, was delighted with his putting display on Friday.

"I've been working hard at my putting," the Englishman said after needing only 27 putts in the opening round at Waialae.

"I felt like it got a little bit better every day at Kapalua. The putter never got hot but today I began to see some 20-footers go in, which was awesome."

Among the other big names in the PGA Tour's first full-field event of the season, Davis Love III opened with a 68 while former winners Jim Furyk and Vijay Singh carded 70s.