Appleby breaks 70 to lead

2004-12-03 19:12
Sun City - Stuart Appleby got his putter working to score a 69 on Friday and take the lead at five under par after the second round of the four million dollar Nedbank Golf Challenge over the Gary Player Country Club course here.

The 33-year-old Australian, carding the first sub-70 round of the tournament, said: "If you want to win at this level against a classy field like this you need to hole those all-important five and 10-footers, and that's what I did today."

Appleby is missing his own country's Australian PGA this week to be at Sun City but justifies this because he feels the Nedbank event is, as he calls it, a "mini Major".

"It's an honour to be invited and of course it's hard to resist the money with $1.2m up for first place."

Happy with 70

Appleby leads by one from Lee Westwood of England who signed for a second straight 70, in spite of a double-bogey six at the 17th where he dunked his sand-wedge approach into the water that fronts the peninsula green.

"Still, I'm happy with 70," Westwood said.

"It's actually a great score on this course since they made it so much tougher and so much longer earlier this year. And the new greens are very firm, so you don't get much spin and when the pins are tucked away it's pretty much impossible to attack the flags."

South Africa's Retief Goosen, the US Open champion, bogeyed both the 17th and 18th holes - a pair of treacherous par-fours - to surrender a share of the lead with Appleby and drop back into joint third place with Zimbabwe's Nick Price at the halfway mark on three-under 141.

"I haven't been hitting the ball as well as I should but at least I'm still in the hunt and it's not as if anyone is running away with the tournament," said the 35-year-old, who - feeling week in the intense heat after being unable to shrug off a bad cold - had to call for a doctor after his round.

Veteran Price, 47, who has only played in a couple of competitive rounds since August, displayed all the old skills that has made him a three-time champion in this event.

"I think the break from golf did me good and I'm striking the ball well and putting well," said the former world No 1.

Els lost ground

Explaining his time on the sidelines, Price said: "I wanted to spend more time with my family and then when I did feel like going back to golf our home in Florida was hit by two hurricanes. There was a lot of cleaning up to do so golf basically took a back seat."

Like Price, world No 3 Ernie Els is chasing a record four wins here but he lost ground on Friday at the par-four 11th where he pulled his drive deep into the African bushveld. He found his ball but had to declare it unplayable, and after reloading at a drop zone he again hit into the bush.

Garcia out of contention

He then hacked out into the clear with his fourth shot, found a bunker with his fifth, blasted out poorly to 20 feet and holed that for a triple-bogey seven. Els finished on 74 for the day and a level par 144 total, but believes he still has a chance.

"Five shots of the pace in a small 12-man field like this is no disaster so we'll see what happens tomorrow."

Appleby's only bogey was at the eighth hole - a brute of a par-four - and he birdied the second, fifth, ninth and 10th holes. He then made eight straight pars, focusing well in the searing heat and tricky winds.

Defending champion Sergio Garcia blew himself out of contention with a 76 for 151 and is 12 shots off the pace.

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