Originally created 05/13/05

Appleby, Daly get back to work



IRVING, Texas - Stuart Appleby got behind the wheel of a Lamborghini Gallardo two weeks ago for a five-day road race in Tasmania, where his team finished 10th. John Daly got on stage with his acoustic guitar and belted out "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" before a packed house.

They aren't bad at their day jobs, either.

Appleby, without a top 10 since winning the first tournament of the year, birdied his first two holes and kept right on rolling Thursday to a 7-under 63 on the TPC at Las Colinas, giving him a one-shot lead over Daly, Ernie Els and Brett Wetterich in the Byron Nelson Championship.

Els showed not much has changed since winning by a career-high 13 shots two weeks ago in Shanghai, playing with Vijay Singh and without a bogey on the TPC course for a 64.

Daly was on the easier Cottonwood Valley course and described his 64 as "mediocre" and "comfortable." That included a chip-in for birdie behind the 12th green, and holing out a bunker shot on No. 3 for birdie. The only glitch was a three-putt bogey that denied him a share of the lead, but he's not one to complain.

"That was the only bad thing today," Daly said. "When I can say that on 18 holes, that's pretty good."

Els was the only member of the Big Five who showed up on the leaderboard on a good day for scoring, with cloud cover and moderate wind.

Singh, a winner in two of his last three tournaments, at times made it look easy with seven birdies. But he dropped five shots along the way, once catching the lip of a fairway bunker and leaving himself buried in deep grass. He rallied for two birdies on the final three holes for a 68.

"I played six, seven holes pretty good and six, seven holes pretty badly and six, seven holes OK," Singh said.

Tiger Woods had only two holes under par - a 6-foot eagle on the par-5 seventh, and a 30-foot birdie on the 18th - to offset two bogeys on his way to a 69.

"I just couldn't make any putts," said Woods, who missed only four greens but took 32 putts. "My lines are just a little off. If I felt yippy or twitch out there, it would be a different story, but I felt good."

Phil Mickelson had 17 pars and took 31 putts in a round of 69, while U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen shot 70.

If it seems like Appleby has disappeared since winning the Mercedes Championships, he has a reason. His wife gave birth to their first child in January, and he has played only seven times this year, about four below his typical schedule.

The 63 was only his fourth sub-par round since Kapalua, although the Aussie was not surprised.

"I play on the PGA Tour," he said. "That's what you're supposed to be able to do, isn't it? I would say that if you started coming out here and got surprised by shooting a low score, you'd really want to evaluate your mental state."

Some might question his head for racing in his free time.

Appleby has a Lamborghini Gallardo at home in Florida, so fast cars are nothing new. He was invited to the Targa Tasmania tarmac rally May 1, shared time with another driver and finished 10th. After the race, Appleby came to this conclusion: "The car has got a fair bit more potential than I have."

Singing and playing guitar is nothing new for Daly, who released a CD a few years ago called "My Life," which featured such blockbuster hits as "All My Exes Wear Rolexes." He was at Cool River restaurant Wednesday night and sang four numbers.

"I'm about a 20 (handicap) when it comes to doing that stuff," Daly said.

He's much better inside the ropes, especially of late. Two weeks ago, Daly birdied the last hole to get into a playoff with Singh at the Houston Open, but his tee shot took a hard bounce into the water on the first extra hole.

Daly didn't always keep it in the short grass at Cottonwood Valley, but a change in his putter to a more upright lie has put his underrated short game back in order. He took only 26 putts.

Els doesn't do anything unusual off the golf course except for a wine business and some golf course design. The Big Easy won this tournament 10 years ago, and thinks it might be a springboard for a run to the U.S. Open.

"I felt comfortable over the ball. I felt like I hit the ball solid," Els said. "The fairways I missed, I wasn't too far away, and the greens I missed, I wasn't too far away."

He even had some luck on his side, driving into the right rough on No. 8 but getting a good lie on a slope of patchy grass. Els fired a 7-iron through a gap in the trees to within 4 feet for birdie. He also covered the flag with an 8-iron into 10 feet on the par-3 13th, and birdied the two par 5s with a routine up-and-down. Divots: Mike Weir skipped the Byron Nelson Championship, but his caddie was hard at work outside the ropes. Brennan Little is a PGA professional in Dallas and is trying to get service points to keep his status. He walked in the pro-am Wednesday, helping the amateurs keep up the pace and reading putts. He was in the press room Thursday highlighting all the birdies with a yellow marker. "It was only the second pro-am I've ever won," Little said.... Mark Calcavecchia is back on the PGA Tour as a newlywed. He married Brenda Nardecchia - now Brenda Calcavecchia - after the first round of the Italian Open last week. His bride caddied for him and wrote "I do" on the golf balls he used. Calcavecchia misread the balls and asked her, "Do you think I'm going to shoot 100 today?" He shot 78, then drove an hour to Lake Como for the wedding.