2007 Masters: Appleby uses misfortunes to create his best finish

Augusta, Ga. | Stuart Appleby came into the Masters with a surprisingly dismal record at Augusta National, having played 10 times without finishing better than T-19. But at this year’s edition, he turned his performance around. He moved into contention with a second-round 70, and was the last man in red numbers until making a triple at the 17th hole of his third round.

Appleby even led the tournament through 54 holes, earning a spot in Sunday’s final twosome alongside his Isleworth neighbor, Tiger Woods.

He admitted it was unchartered waters, and said he took a good deal from the experience.

“I learned there’s an ultimate level to play golf at the highest level, right state of mind,” he said. “My game was pretty good. I really progressed. . . . The lead meant nothing to me. It meant nothing. I don’t know when it would have meant something where I could have been more comfortable, because it’s just such a golf course.”

Appleby had contended the week before in Houston, but knew he needed to improve his putting. He shared the final-round lead until a wayward 7-iron came to rest in Rae’s Creek en route to making a double-bogey 5 at 12. Mostly, he was pleased with the way he played at Augusta, and tipped his cap to the champion, Zach Johnson.

“He would have had plenty of holes where he made some great pars,” Appleby said. “That’s the critical thing. I need to make more great pars and at the same time make some birdies to keep moving in the same direction.”

Appleby would fall to seventh with his closing 75, but nonetheless, it marked progress.

In 40 previous major starts, he had only three top 10s and had missed 17 cuts. Next April, he’ll bring a new outlook when he returns to Augusta, a place that should fit his powerful style.

“You’ve got to get your game to the right level, you’ve got to know how to maintain it, how to feel, when to relax . . . that’s what I saw with Tiger. When he does those great things, he’s always in the right state of mind. That’s what I had a fair part of this week. It’s tough, but I feel myself getting to the right level more often, feeling more comfortable about my putting, which was something that was really on and off.”

Does he think he has a major in him?

“Yes, definitely,” he said. “I don’t have any question about that. I just wish I knew I could pick the date.”

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