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Tiger-to-Greenbrier buzz gets added jolt from 2010 champion Appleby

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS - Stuart Appleby can identify with winning a golf tournament in dramatic fashion, such as Tiger Woods did last weekend.

The affable Australian appeared Tuesday at the Greenbrier Classic's annual media day, an event he has yet to miss. He attended the inaugural media day almost by happenstance, and later earned a permanent place in Greenbrier lore with a winning 59 on the final day of the 2010 tournament.

The Classic's 2012 edition begins July 2, with competitive rounds July 5-8.

Appleby fielded questions about Tiger, recent struggles, Tiger, PGA Tour issues and, yes, Tiger. Having missed the cut at the Memorial Tournament, Appleby was eating dinner Sunday at a nearby Whole Foods grocery store/restaurant when his caddy texted him about Woods' instant-classic chip-in.

The Memorial-turning shot on the 16th hole got the sports world buzzing, to say nothing of more ardent golf fans. Greenbrier Classic officials reported an instant spike in badge sales, and reiterated the near-certain prospect of closing sales before tournament week.

Appleby felt similar magic in the inaugural Greenbrier Classic of 2010, when he holed a 10-foot, 10-inch putt on the 18th to finish that 11-under-par 59.

"I remember 18, and I remember making [the putt] and I remember saying, 'Holy cow, that just happened,'" he said. "I'm hugging, I'm high-fiving my caddy, and the noise. Was it Tiger-esque? I'm sure his hearing is not as good as mine, as he's been screamed at for making all his shots - he must be deaf by now.

"I think the way I felt when I holed that putt on the last hole, I think he feels that way often."

He noticed that Woods outplayed golfers in his pairing in the last two rounds at the Memorial, starting with 2011 Greenbrier Classic winner Scott Stallings. Stallings had a 75 Saturday, followed by a 77 Sunday when he played with somebody else. Rickie Fowler, paired with Woods on Sunday, suffered an 84.

Appleby recalled a time he was paired with Woods in San Diego, outshot him 66 to 73 and delivered some good-natured ribbing. Of course, Woods left Appleby and the rest of the field in his vapor trail in that tournament.

"He can win with any one of your swings," Appleby told the assembled media, some of whose swings can charitably be termed erratic. "He has won with a number of swings, each very, very different. I can't name anyone else in the game who has won with such a variety of swings."

While Woods has won twice this season and has climbed back to No. 4 in the world, Appleby has hit the skids. For instance, he not only missed the cut at the Memorial, but he was also eight strokes off at the Columbus sectional U.S. Open qualifier.

(Stallings missed the media day because of his Open qualifying at Germantown, Tenn. It was delayed a day by inclement weather, and contested Tuesday. He shot a first-round 68 in the 36-hole qualifier, but later withdrew.)

Appleby's last major was the 2011 Masters, a direct perk of his Greenbrier win. In 12 Tour events this season, he has made the cut in just four.

While the 41-year-old tries to regain the form that has earned him more than $26 million over 17 seasons, he will play a full schedule through the Classic. He's looking to recapture the feeling from that 59.

He's trying to get his hands on a DVD recording of the CBS broadcast of that round. The network largely followed Appleby and runner-up Jeff Overton around the Old White course, so there would be plenty of appropriate footage.

"What I've got to do, I've got to be persistent," Appleby said. "I've got to have the correct attitude, I've got to know what's worked before and replicate that. And that's why I've talked about the video ... Go back to what you know has worked.

"I've certainly got to rekindle some of the things I know have worked, and I've got to make an emotional shift. I'm in good enough shape, I don't have any of the injuries that probably started my downfall a few years ago."

With the FedExCup season just past the halfway point, Appleby needs some paychecks. He needs his first top-10 finish in 15 months, and time is running out.

Appleby finished 129th on the Tour's money list last year - outside the magic 125 generally needed to retain membership - but he had his two-year exemption from winning the 2010 Classic. That runs out after this year.

He is 173rd on the FedExCup points list and 177th on the money list. Should he finish 2012 below 125th, he does have a potential exemption for 2013 based on his place on the career money list, where he is 19th.

At this point, he is not concerned with all that.

"I've not really experienced that for a really long time," he said. "I won't delve on that until the time comes. It would be like if I kicked you in the nuts - are you worried about me kicking you in the nuts? No, not until I kick you in the nuts are you worried."

Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or dougsmock@wvgazette.com.

 


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