Appleby wins third straight Mercedes title



KAPALUA, Hawaii (AP) -- Stuart Appleby had to go an extra hole to make it three in a row Sunday at the Mercedes Championships, making a birdie on the par-5 18th to force a playoff against Vijay Singh, then winning on the same hole with a bunker shot that nearly went in.
Appleby joined Gene Littler in 1955-57 as the only players to win the winners-only tournament three straight times, and none of them was easy.
"This one was the hardest," said Appleby, who went from a two-shot lead to a two-shot deficit before making birdies on two of the last four holes for a 2-under 71.
Two groups ahead of him, Singh surged into the lead with a 7-under 66, the best score of the tournament and nine shots better than the average score in the final round. But in the playoff, Singh's approach caught a soft bounce and stayed short of the green, and his 100-foot eagle putt stopped 9 feet short of the hole.
Appleby hit 3-iron through the green into the back bunker, then blasted out and watched the ball tickle over the rim of the cup before settling 2 feet away. Singh's birdie putt stayed right the whole way, and Appleby holed his short putt for what is becoming a familiar finish at this tournament.
"I had to do something special coming in. I didn't do it, so I had to do it in the playoff," Appleby said. "Winning the Mercedes is awesome. Winning three times is a dream come true."
Both players finished at 8-under 284, the highest score to win in the eight years the season-opening tournament has been played on the Plantation course at Kapalua.
The Mercedes Championships was missing some of the stars this year as Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Retief Goosen and Padraig Harrington all stayed home.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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