Stuart Appleby has become the first player since Gene Littler to win the season-opening Mercedes Championship on the US Tour for a third consecutive time. The Australian defeated world number two Vijay Singh in a sudden death playoff with a birdie to the Fijian’s par, Appleby nearly holing his blast from the greenside bunker for eagle.
Appleby was forced to birdie the 18th in regulation time to reach the playoff with Singh, who was already in the clubhouse with a brilliant final round 66 for an eight-under total, though his 17th hole bogey opened the door for the defending champion. The 34-year-old was ecstatic to have won the tournament again, but declared that his third win was the most difficult.
“This one was the hardest,” Appleby said. “I had to do something special coming in. I didn’t do it, so I had to do it in the playoff. Winning the Mercedes is awesome. Winning three times is a dream come true.”
The Victorian shot a solid two-under 71 in the final round, and the win guarantees him a start in the event next year, with invitations for the tournament set aside for winners of the US Tour events from the previous year. Reigning US Open champion Michael Campbell, who started in second place behind Appleby, ruined his chance for victory with a disappointing 75 in the final round, while American Jim Furyk finished third with 72.
Appleby won for the seventh time on the PGA Tour, earning $1.08 million and added to his collection of Mercedes-Benz sports cars that go to the winner.
Mercedes Championship leaderboard after the final round (par 73):
-8 Stuart Appleby (Australia) 71 72 70 71, Vijay Singh 70 74 74 66
-4 Jim Furyk 72 72 72 72
-2 Michael Campbell (NZ) 72 72 71 75, Vaughn Taylor 74 73 72 71
+4 Geoff Ogilvy (Australia) 75 72 74 75
+6 Peter Lonard (Australia) 74 74 73 77