Big Play Holing clutch putts, like the one at 7 on Sunday, and showing new discipline, Mercedes winner Stuart Appleby is my pick at the Masters

January 19, 2004

Since the late 1990S Stuart Appleby has had the physical talent
to be a PGA Tour superstar and a perennial contender at Augusta.
He's long (he ranked 35th in driving distance in 2003); he has an
excellent short game (24th in scrambling); and he's a solid
putter (37th). Now Appleby has improved in the two areas that had
kept him from fulfilling his promise: focus and discipline.
That's why Appleby is my pick to win his first major, the
Masters, in April and finish the year in the top five on the
money list. Appleby's prodigious talents, especially his deft
putting and new mental sharpness, carried him to victory at the
Mercedes Championships. On Kapalua's sprawling and curvaceous
greens, Appleby led the 30-man field with only 110 putts. Even
25-mph winds during the final round didn't affect Appleby's
stroke. Sticking with his elaborate preshot routine, he remained
rock steady on the greens. His best putt, a slick, downhill
25-footer for birdie at 7 (above), gave him his third birdie in
four holes and a gaping six-shot lead over Vijay Singh. Seven
holes later, his lead down to five strokes, Appleby demonstrated
his improved command of course management. After Singh had nearly
driven the green at the 305-yard 14th, Appleby teed off with a
three-iron, a smart play that connected a string of six closing
pars, sealing his first win in what I think will be a breakout
season.

THREE COLOR PHOTOS: COURTESY OF ESPN COLOR PHOTO: ANDREW GOMBERT Kent Cayce teaches at Laurel Golf Center in Laurel, Md., and is one of Golf Magazine's Top 100 Teachers. COLOR PHOTOMONTAGE: ANDREW GOMBERT NORMAL
COLOR PHOTOMONTAGE: ANDREW GOMBERT WINDY

OUR TOP TEACHER SAYS...

"What are the odds that Vijay Singh will surpass Tiger Woods
and become No. 1 in the World Ranking? Very high, and sooner than
you might think."

"After his 17th surgery--to repair bones in his right foot in
October--Tour veteran Bill Glasson has had just about every part
of his body reconstructed, except his brain."

"Giving a girl like Michelle Wie a sponsor's exemption into
the Sony Open is a recipe for disaster. Sony sells tickets and
generates buzz, but finishing at the bottom is humiliating and
will teach Wie something--how to lose--that could ruin her."

"Two of last year's breakout stars, Chad Campbell and Shaun
Micheel, are top-tier players. Ben Curtis was a flash in the
pan."

"The new rule giving tournament committees the authority to
DQ players for breach of etiquette is too subjective to have a
place in the Rules of Golf."

THE TIP
PUTTING IN THE WIND

To putt well in the wind, you must modify your setup so that your
body remains still and the putter doesn't get blown off line.
Make three key adjustments: 1) Widen your stance by three or four
inches in order to lower your center of gravity. That will
stabilize you. 2) Choke down near the end of the grip. Shortening
the club makes it easier to control. 3) Move the ball back toward
the center of your stance. That will ensure that the center of
the club face hits the equator of the ball. Finally, keep your
eyes fixed on the back edge of the ball throughout the stroke.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)