Appleby outduels McCarron in playoff

Originally Published: October 12, 2003
Associated Press

LAS VEGAS -- Stuart Appleby liked his chances when he saw the 15-foot putt he needed to make to end his four-year drought on the PGA Tour.

Stuart Appleby
Getty ImagesStuart Appleby tastes sweet victory after finishing runner-up in his last two events.

''As soon as I saw it, I thought I could make it,'' Appleby said after beating Scott McCarron in a playoff at the Las Vegas Invitational. ''As it was going to the hole, I thought, 'It's a little slow, a little left,' but it dropped in.''

Appleby pumped his fist when his ball went in on the first playoff hole. McCarron had a chance to extend the playoff with a putt almost identical to Appleby's. However, his shot broke left and slid by the hole.

''I thought I made it, but that's how it goes,'' McCarron said.

The win was Appleby's first on the tour since the 1999 Houston Open and ended his recent streak of runner-up finishes. He had finished second three times season, including last week at the American Express Championship, where he tied with Tim Herron and Vijay Singh, two shots back of Tiger Woods.

Appleby also finished second here last year, a shot behind Phil Tataurangi.

''It's been a bit of a drought,'' the Australian said.

Appleby and McCarron were tied at 31-under 328 at the end of the tournament's 90 holes. Both missed birdie putts on No. 18 that could have won them the tournament in regulation -- Appleby from about 16 feet and McCarron from about 12.

Appleby, the leader going into the final round, shot a 3-under 69 Sunday at the TPC Summerlin course. McCarron closed with a 6-under 66.

It was another tough loss for McCarron in a tournament where he has consistently played well. Two years ago he led by three shots going into the final round, but finished tied for fourth after his caddie accidentally broke his driver the night before the final 18 holes.

McCarron ran into some more bad luck Sunday.

As he was preparing to hit his second shot in the playoff hole, a member of the on-course TV crew coughed loudly.

McCarron stepped back from his ball, looked over and asked, ''Are you all right now? Good.''

McCarron still hit a good shot, his ball nearly making contact with Appleby's on the green as it came to rest.

''He hacked up ... just as I was getting ready to hit,'' McCarron said. ''For a guy like that who's supposed to be professional and doing his job, that was really out of line.''

McCarron missed a short birdie putt on No. 13 when a car screeched on a nearby street just as he took the putter back.

''I heard it and it broke my concentration,'' he said. ''Things like that happen when you lose.''

In contrast, Appleby caught a big break on the tough par-3 17th hole for the second straight day.

His tee shot, as it did on Saturday, bounced left and headed for the pond that runs alongside the green. But, just like the day before, the ball stayed a couple of feet short of the hazard.

Appleby, who had taken a one-shot lead with a birdie on the par-5 16th, chipped up and made a bogey that left him tied with McCarron going to 18.

''Stuart's ball stays up on 17 twice. It was just his turn to win,'' McCarron said.

Steve Lowery shot a final-round 67 and finished third, three shots back. Scott Verplank (67) was fourth at 332 and David Frost (65) next at 333.

Steve Flesch started the day a shot behind Appleby and was tied with Appleby and McCarron with seven holes to play. He dropped out of contention with bogeys at 12 and 13 and a double bogey at the par-5 16th, where he backhanded his putt for bogey and missed it. He finished with a 74 and in a tie with Woody Austin (67) at 334.

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press