PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. – Fred Couples is playing with two potential members of his Presidents Cup team this afternoon in Bubba Watson and Anthony Kim. He might want to be keeping an eye on the competition, though.
Of the 12 players at the top of the leaderboard right now who have finished their first rounds in the Northern Trust Open, six are eligible to play for the International Team. Not to mention, five of them are Australians – which should play well when the matches are played at Royal Melbourne Nov. 14-20.
Aussies John Senden, Robert Allenby and Aaron Baddeley are among the six players tied for the lead at 4 under. Two more from Down Under -- Geoff Ogilvy and Stuart Appleby – finished at 2 under while Fiji’s Vijay Singh is among those who shot 68s.
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Judging by the leaderboard, the chances of having a first-time winner at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am are looking pretty good.
Only three of the top 15 players on the leaderboard – all within five strokes of the lead – have PGA TOUR victories to their credit. The last first-time winner on TOUR came at the Bob Hope Classic three weeks ago when Jhonattan Vegas prevailed in a playoff.
Aaron Baddeley, who is tied for seventh, has two PGA TOUR wins, the last coming in 2007. And Stuart Appleby, who is tied for 11th, ended a four-year victory drought when he made the inaugural Greenbrier Classic his ninth TOUR win.
Kevin Sutherland, who joins Appleby in that five-way tie at 7 under, has one win to his credit – the 2002 World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship. – Helen Ross
HONOLULU -- The leaders have now reached the halfway point of their third rounds, and one thing seems apparent -- no player is going to run away with the championship.
Stuart Appleby and Roland Thatcher share the lead at 12 under, with Mark Wilson one stroke back. Shigeki Maruyama, Jimmy Walker and Steve Marino are at 10 under. Six other players are within four shots of the lead, with plenty of golf remaining in this 36-hole finish Sunday.
Thatcher has the hottest hand of the day. Teeing off on the 10th hole in the third round, he's a bogey-free 4 under through his first nine holes, having rolled in putts from inside 10 feet, from 14 feet and from outside 18 feet.
Appleby, who shared the 36-hole lead with Maruyama, hasn't gotten much help from his putter. He bogeyed the 14th after missing a par putt just outside six feet, then missed a birdie opportunity inside four feet at the par-4 16th.
He did, however, hit a brilliant shot out of the fairway bunker at the par-5 18th, leaving him a 3-foot, 5-inch putt for eagle that he drained, enabling him to jump back into a tie for the lead..
Maruyama has had to scramble for most of the first nine holes. He's missed five of his first seven fairways, and five of his first eight greens.
Thatcher briefly held the solo lead at 11 under after Maruyama bogeyed the 17th hole (his eight hole of the day).
Australia’s Stuart Appleby and Japan’s Shigeki Maruyama have a lot more in common than one might think -- for one, Appleby had just conditional status on the PGA TOUR last year, while Maruyama made just four starts. Well, throw all that out the window because the two are tied atop the leaderboard after two rounds at Waialae.
Maruyama, who went out early, led for much of the day after a second straight 65. Then Appleby, who switched back to the putter he used to shoot 59 at The Greenbrier Classic last year, birdied his last two holes in the afternoon to pull even with Maruyama at 10 under.
They have a long way to go, however, with a 36-hole finale set for Sunday as officials try to finish the tournament on schedule after heavy rains wiped out play on Thursday.
Those two will be grouped (along with Roland Thatcher) for all 36 holes. They start their third rounds off the 10th tee at 1:20 p.m. ET (8:20 a.m. local time). Their fourth-round tee time is set for 5:50 p.m. ET (12:10 p.m. local) off the first tee.
Appleby knows who’ll get most of the attention, especially from the Japanese media and fans who have swelled Maruyama’s galleries.
“I’m sure he’s got a couple more reporters around him than I have right now, probably at least 50 photographers,” Appleby said. “Just a normal day in Shigeki Maruyama’s life, I’d say.” – Brian Wacker
WINNING ON NINTH HOLE?: With tee times set for the final two rounds and groups going off both the first and 10th tees in each round, there’s a chance that the winner could find himself finishing on the ninth hole late Sunday.
It happened last year at the Puerto Rico Open when rookie Derek Lamely won on the ninth hole. He became the first winner to start on the back nine and win since Keith Clearwater at the 1987 Colonial Invitational.
Among the players who will finish their final rounds on the ninth hole Sunday: Ernie Els, Steve Stricker, last week’s winner Jonathan Byrd and defending champion Ryan Palmer. – Mike McAllister
EXPLAINING THE CUT: Because of that 36-hole finish, only the number nearest the low 60 on the leaderboard will compete in the final two rounds -- though the top 70 and ties will receive FedExCup points and earnings, as well as credit for making the cut.
Late in the day, the cut number moved to 3 under, meaning that 56 players will actually participate in the final two rounds Sunday. – Brian Wacker
COURSE IN GREAT SHAPE: Waialae Country Club crew’s hard work continued to pay off, as preferred lies were not needed for the second round. Players continued to praise the efforts of the grounds crew, as they were able to return the course to normal conditions after heavy rains forced the suspension of play before a single swing on Wednesday and Thursday.
The hard work did not go unnoticed by the players.
“Hat’s off to the staff here at Waialae and all the hard work they had to do to get the course ready. We played the ball down today, no lift, clean, and place, and it’s looking great,” said Mark Wilson, who shot a 3-under to jump into a tie for third with Steve Marino and Roland Thatcher at 8 under for the tournament.
Marino agreed with the miraculous turnaround of course conditions: “I can’t believe it. It was under water on Thursday, and right now you’d have a hard time telling that we had any rain out here. They did an unbelievable job.” – Heather Deranek
A day after closing with a 30 on the back nine at Waialae, Stuart Appleby isn’t having close to the same success here in Round 2. Through his first eight holes on the back nine, he’s just even par with one birdie and one bogey.
In fact, that’s been the trend for much of the afternoon wave, which hasn’t had near the same success with very few players under par.
Appleby, meanwhile, has hit every fairway so far, but he’s hitting fewer greens than yesterday and not making the same putts he did in the opening round.
It’s been a few years since Shigeki Maruyama has been a regular on the PGA TOUR, much less been atop a leaderboard. That’s where he is now, though, after a second straight 65 has him at 10 under.
The last four years have been a steady decline for Maruyama, who made just nine combined starts the last two seasons. The last time he was this close to the lead? In 2007, when he tied for second at the Ginn sur Mer Classic.
One big reason Maruyama is halfway to his first victory since 2003: Putting. Maruyama is third in the field in putts per green in regulation at 1.520 through two rounds. And that’s why he leads the field with 16 birdies.
Meanwhile, overnight leader Stuart Appleby is on the course and is 1 under through his first four holes today. That has him in a tie for fourth and three off Maruyama’s lead.
HONOLULU -- After nearly two days of inactivity due to the rainy conditions, Stuart Appleby had to do something golf-related. So late Thursday afternoon, he went out to the balcony on the fire exit where he's staying.
Wearing a golf glove and staring at his reflection in the window, he hit imaginary balls for about 20 minutes. He could only use his sand wedge -- it was the only club he could swing within the confines of the balcony.
"That was really my whole practice right there," Appleby said.
It must have been enough. Appleby went out in Friday's first round of the Sony Open in Hawaii and produced a 6-under 64, his second-lowest score in 31 career rounds in this event. (In 2003, he shot a closing 63.)
"I did work up a sweat," Appleby insisted about his impromptu practice session. "It was sunny. That was it. Some guys went to ranges nearby.
"I just didn't have that motivation to do that."
Appleby started Friday's round -- delayed 24 hours after Thursday's play was completely wiped out due to heavy rains -- with eight straight pars. He then birdied the ninth, holed out from 54 feet for birdie at the 12th and then hit a 2-iron to within 10 feet for another birdie at the 13th to really pick up the pace.
Holing out from 163 yards for an eagle 2 at the par-4 16th didn’t hurt, either.
"Less than two hours, it went from a pretty plain round to a good round," Appleby said.
A week ago, Appleby opened with a 69 at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions but could not break 70 in any of the last three rounds. He was using a pro shop-bought Odyssey two-ball putter after his regular putter had been misplaced.
He was disappointed in his performance, especially on a Plantation course in which he's won three times. Now he's hoping for better things on a course in which he's never won, having missed the cut in three of his last four starts at Waialae.
"I've obviously had some wins at Kapalua and come here on a high and haven't managed to perform that good since the following week," Appleby said.
"But look, after my win late last year (at The Greenbrier Classic when he closed with a 59), I don't really care when you have wins. I don't think it really matters anymore ...
"Good form is what you need to have ultimately throughout a career ... I think wins can come from the strangest places and that's the exciting part of the game. You don't have to have multiple weeks of top 10s, top 10s to have a win. It can come pretty quickly."
Appleby kept the two-ball putter in his bag Friday, but he certainly seems tempted to return to his previous putter, the one he shot the 59 with at Greenbrier.
The fact that he shot 64 doesn't really give him incentive to make a change, though.
"I didn't know whether I wanted a really good day, which gets you staying with the putter, or an ordinary day, so you just move on to the old one," Appleby said.
Friday was certainly not ordinary. Neither was his practice session the day before.
"That was amazing, just 20 minutes on the balcony," said Appleby, who was planning to hit the driving range Friday afternoon.
"If you know what you're thinking about, what you're trying to do, you don't need to hit balls.
"I've been here long enough. What am I going to learn that's totally new, like, oh, my God, I've got it? Nothing. It's not going to happen." -- Mike McAllister
The best round of the day, so far, in the day-late first round belongs to a guy who’s won in Hawaii before: Stuart Appleby. While the Aussie’s victories in the Aloha State have all come at Kapalua in the season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions, he’s off to a pretty good start at Waialae with an opening 64 that included four birdies and an eagle on the par-4 16th.
Appleby, the PGA TOUR’S Comeback Player of the Year in 2010, has plenty of company, though, with Justin Rose and Mark Wilson a shot back. Another shot back from that is Chris Riley.
Perhaps the most surprising name near the top of the leaderboard right now? Alexandre Rocha, who is a 33-year-old rookie from Brazil making his debut this week.
While Rocha played in just four career TOUR events prior to this week, he did show flashes at last year’s Honda Classic, which he got into after going through two qualifiers. He opened with a 66 to sit just one shot off the lead before finishing in a tie for 59th.