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March 3 2011

6:48 PM

Wind punishing players at PGA National

What’s been the biggest obstacle to low scores here in the opening round?

”Mother Nature was probably the biggest obstacle in shooting 5‑ or 6‑under par,” said Stuart Appleby, who is in the clubhouse at 2-under 68.

If there’s someone who knows how to play in the wind, it’s Appleby, who grew up playing in Australia. Not that it makes any easier.

“I guess maybe one of the secrets was I was not thinking about that too much. I knew it was pretty difficult,” Appleby added. “Still doesn't make you feel comfortable. Very difficult to sort of get your lines on tee shots; one minute you're hitting driver, and the next day you're hitting hybrid off the tee, or less.

“Putting was very difficult today. There was definitely some breeze pushing the ball, a lot of grain on the greens. But just ‑‑ it was tough. Played all right. I wouldn't call it brilliant, but I guess just consistent enough where I didn't get on the wrong side of dropping a shot every 30 minutes, which you easily could do.”

Spencer Levin, who is one shot clear of Appleby and in the lead for now, took it a step further, saying that the par-5 third hole was “the only birdie hole on the whole course.”

Levin made three more birdies on his round, but the point is well taken.

“I think you just have to be prepared to know that you're going to have to get a few balls up‑and‑down,” Levin added. “That's kind of the way it is, no matter how you play.

“You get kind of in a par mode really where you just have to kind of take what the course gives you. If you hit a good drive, you don't want to get too cute and try to go at a pin that you might shouldn't and then make a bogey because you know pars are going to be a good score.”

Judging by the wind, which has been consistently blowing in the 20-plus mph range, talking about par isn’t rhetoric either.

“It was blowing so hard me and J.J. [Henry] were saying, you could feel on 18; the fountains were I don't know how far behind the green, but you could feel the mist almost on the third shot,” Levin said. “It was blowing hard out there, it really was.” -- Brian Wacker

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