Appleby posts rare hat-trick



KAPALUA, Hawaii ? Australian Stuart Appleby joined elite company when he won the $7.18 million Mercedes Championship yesterday. He became just the second player, the first in 49 years, to win the US PGA Tour's season-opener three consecutive years, when he birdied the first extra hole to beat Vijay Singh in a play-off. "Winning the Mercedes is awesome but three times straight is a dream come true,'' Appleby said.

"This one was the hardest test, mentally and physically, because it was a really windy week but I felt everything I did today was basically right.'' He had to work hard for his seventh victory on the US Tour, falling behind the fastfinishing Singh before making birdie at the final regulation hole, the par-five 18th at the Kapalua Plantation course, to force the play-off.

Appleby won on the same hole a few minutes later, hitting an exquisite bunker shot to inside a metre and holing the putt after Singh missed a three-metre birdie chance.

It was a bitter end for the Fijian, who looked set to steal the tournament when he fired a magnificent seven-under 66, easily the best round of the week. He posted an eight-under 284 total, which Appleby matched with a 71. American Jim Furyk finished four shots behind in third place.

Gene Littler (1955-57) is the only other player to post a hattrick in the season-opener, formerly known as the Tournament of Champions.



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