Wow did I get my money's worth this past weekend at the 2006 Mercedes Championship. This was my first PGA Tour event that I attended and luck have it, I had front-row seats to two fantastic finishes at the 18th hole on the Plantation Course at Kapalua. Vijay finished the first time with a tap-in birdie to go eight under and force Appleby to also birdie the 18th hole to go eight under and force a playoff. The players were promptly shuttled back to the 18th for the first playoff hole where both players matched drives in the center of the fairway but their second and third shots are what really created the drama. Alas the playoff was won by Appleby when Vijay missed his crucial putt (again) and left Appleby with a two-footer for his third consecutive win.
Joe said, "This is our party, he's not invited," and I thought, "You're right, Joe. I can't change his scorecard, but he can't do this. We've got to find a way. This is our tournament.'" - Stuart Appleby on 15th after seeing Vijay's score.
The course was the true opponent this week showing its own teeth with new greens and a very strong trade wind as opposed to the slightly easier Kona Winds that the players have seen the past few years. Now I have played the course with the new greens and both with and without wind and the course is definitely more challenging with the winds. To reinforce that, three of this years rounds rated as the highest scoring average and it was also the lowest winning score of this event since its move to Kapalua in 1999.
The King of Kapalua, as Appleby is now called, named this win his best of the three and possibly his best of his career. Hopefully this win - unlike the first two - will propel Stuart to a bigger and better season on the PGA Tour. I personally am very happy to see Stuart three-peat and despite a field missing the number first-, third-, and and fourth-ranked players in the world I don't discount Appleby's win at all, though there is some disagreement among our forum members.
Photo Credit: © Mercedes Championship.