Appleby has one-shot lead at Mercedes Championships



Stuart Appleby recovered from a first-hole bogey for a 7-under 66.
KAPALUA, Hawaii (AP) -- The first hole in the first PGA Tour event of the year proved to be a problem for Stuart Appleby and Tiger Woods.
The difference is what they did on the rest of the Plantation course at Kapalua in the first round of the year at the Mercedes Championships.
Appleby hit his drive into the brush and never found it, hit his third shot to where most guys hit their drives, and managed to escape with a bogey. He was flawless the rest of the day, making six birdies on the back for a 7-under 66 and a one-stroke lead over Darren Clarke.
"After that bogey glitch on the first, I played solid all day," Appleby said Thursday. "I liked the way I swung, like the way I rolled it."
Putt didn't fall
Woods was in the right rough and had to play short of the green, and his 15-foot par putt circled almost all the way around the cup before staying out. The rest of the day wasn't much better.
Woods twice hit into the hazard on par 5s, making bogey and double bogey. When his eagle putt curled in the left side of the cup on No. 18 for a 2-under 71, he looked more shocked than anything.
"Nothing went right," Woods said. "I either hit great shots or horrific ones. It was not a relaxing round of golf. The positions I put myself in today were very stressful. I was just happy to finish under par."
Appleby was just happy to be at Kapalua, especially considering he had not been here in four years, a winning drought he blamed on focus and lack of intensity.
He turned it around last year, finishing second two straight weeks before finally winning in Las Vegas. The Aussie continued to play late in the year, at the Presidents Cup and Australian Open, and looked like he was ready to keep right on rolling into the new season.
Ditto for Vijay Singh.
Coming off his best year ever, with four victories and the PGA Tour money title, Singh finished strong and was in a group at 5-under 68 that included Scott Hoch, Justin Leonard and Kirk Triplett.
"I'll sleep good tonight," Singh said after birdies on his last two holes.
Only two players -- Jonathan Kaye and Bob Tway -- failed to break par at Kapalua, where the Kona winds made it difficult for anyone who missed a shot.
Els falters
Defending champion Ernie Els won last year by eight shots with a record 31-under par, but found trouble at the start -- just about everyone did on a hole that yielded only one birdie.
Els hit into the hazard and missed a short putt to take double bogey, then went bunker-to-bunker on the par-3 second hole and had to get up-and-down out of the sand just to make bogey. It never got much better until the end, where birdies on two of his last three holes brought him back to even-par 73.

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