Appleby maintains fire, top form 'within arm's reach'
Maintaining his passion at 42 and with a few pedestrian years behind him, Stuart Appleby insists he’s as fired up as ever about the game.
“I remember when I was a young gun, (but) the game tastes different when you get older,” he said. “I want to compete; I want to play. It’s easy just to play golf, but to play golf on the PGA Tour is a whole other thing.”
PHOTOS: Pro-am day, 2014 Northern Trust Open
Sneak a peek at Wednesday's pro-am day at the PGA Tour's 2014 Northern Trust Open at Riviera CC near Los Angeles.
The most recent of his nine PGA Tour wins came in 2010, but he insists he has the desire to continue to work hard. What keeps him going?
“The chase, the elusive, almost-at-your-finger-tips next level of golf. It’s just there, within arm’s reach,” he said. “Sometimes you can reach it and grab at it; other times it’s a couple steps (away). It feels like it’s always there, the next rung on the ladder. Golf gives you so many opportunities to do that, like no other sport. It’s a great game.”
Appleby has sort of rekindled a fondness of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, though he doesn’t deny that his first two visits here (1996 and 1999) left him bewildered. The tournament was washed out after two rounds in ’96, and in ’99 Appleby barely made the cut, then showed up at his assigned tee time for Round 4, paired with Tiger Woods and John Maginnes.
He remembers the weather being so bad, yet each hit a tee shot off of their first hole, the par-4 10th, and subsequently were told that play was being halted. It never resumed, so Payne Stewart was declared the 54-hole winner, while Appleby finished in a share of 53rd with Maginnes and Woods.
Is Appleby’s memory correct, about Maginnes being well left, up into the ice plants? Now a member of the radio team that broadcasts PGA Tour events, Maginnes was at Pebble Beach this year and confirmed that the Aussie has it right. But it’s not Maginnes’ favorite weather memory of this tournament; instead, he favors what happened one year while playing the 10th hole alongside Tommy Nakajima. In horrendous weather and into the teeth of a howling wind, Maginnes said he found the fairway at 10, but had no chance to reach in two. So he hit.
When Nakajima, who had helped his amateur locate a ball right of the fairway, discovered that Maginnes had gone and hit his second shot he was surprised. “But they’re still on the green,” Nakajima said. Maginnes told him that he knew that, but he hit a great second shot and “I’m still 50 yards short of the green.”
With that, Nakajima shook his head and said, “What the (expletive) and I doing here?”
Indeed, the par-4 10th, which played to 446 yards this year, is not exactly where you want to be when it’s cold and the wind is into you. But that’s where Briny Baird was Thursday morning in a steady rain. His drive was measured at 208 and then came a 3-wood, both shots, he told a PGA Tour official, being well struck. Yet Baird was 55 yards short of the green.