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Some Joy Follows Pain for Appleby


One morning last July, Stuart Appleby and his wife, Renay, got out of a cab at a train station in London, where they were spending a few days of vacation. Renay was standing behind the cab when another car struck and killed her as Appleby looked on helplessly.

There were days when Appleby wondered if he could go on, whether he ought to quit golf and head back to Australia. But Appleby stuck it out, mainly because he knew that Renay would have wanted him to.

So when Appleby won the Shell Houston Open last Sunday, it made sense that the person he said deserved the most credit was Renay.

"It's hard to say if she was with me," Appleby said. "She gave me the strength. I just felt strong.

"There was no emotional high, like, 'God, I'm going to win this now.' It was already there. And she's going to be with me forever in anything I do. And she'll be there to help, nothing but that."

Appleby, who turned 28 on Saturday, has been considered a rising star on the PGA Tour since he graduated from qualifying school in 1996. His victory in Houston was Appleby's third in three years, but his first since his wife's death.

Appleby, a former Australian rules football player who grew up on a dairy farm in Cohuna, Australia, hitting golf balls from paddock to paddock after his chores were done, had met Renay back home. They were inseparable as Appleby worked his way from the Nike Tour to the PGA Tour, with Renay as his caddie.

After Renay's death, Appleby played as much golf as he thought he was capable of, but he had trouble concentrating. He knew that hard work would eventually pay off. He just didn't know it would happen Sunday in Houston.

"I had to try to be Renay, try and talk to myself about what I had to do to win. And she knew what it was and I knew what it was. The answer was: Get your act together, try and stay positive on the course, believe in yourself, believe that practice is going to work.

"It's very hard to do when you lose someone you love so much, but you've got to turn it around. Time goes on. And you have to make sure that if anything happens in your life for good or for bad, that you find out that in the end it was . . . everything was for the good."


It isn't all that great for Steve Elkington, who pulled out of the Houston event complaining of severe headaches and was diagnosed with viral meningitis.

It's the second time in two years that the 36-year-old Australian has contracted viral meningitis.

"It's not life-threatening, but he is in a lot of pain," said Brian Peters of IMG, which represents Elkington. "We expect him back on tour in a few weeks."


For what it's worth, the May issue of Men's Journal lists its best players to watch at certain elements of the game--such as Tiger Woods on the tee because, according to Men's Journal, "He flat-out hits the ball farther than anyone else . . . and he usually keeps it in play."

Actually, Woods flat-out doesn't. He's No. 2 in driving distance, 17.8 yards per drive behind No. 1 John Daly. And Woods is No. 46 in driving accuracy percentage.

David Duval is Men's Journal's choice in the fairway because "Nobody on the tour hits the ball dead-straight on a regular basis." Presumably, Duval comes the closest. However, he doesn't. Duval is tied for No. 43 in driving accuracy.

As for the "In Trouble" category, the magazine's choices are Seve Ballesteros and Tom Watson. No argument about Ballesteros, who's in trouble more often than a truant. But Watson? The only time he ever had any problems, besides having to fill out all those deposit slips for the piles of money he has won, was any time he stood over a four-foot putt.


After taking three weeks off, Woods is getting busy.

There will be announcement Monday that Woods and Duval will play in the first PGA Tour head-to-head match televised live in prime time on the East Coast. The event will be played the first weekend in August, probably in Las Vegas and on ABC.

Woods will also announce an invitational tournament picking the top players from the world ranking to be played in Las Vegas over New Year's weekend, with $1 million going to the winner.

Woods wrapped up his new Nike commercial Tuesday in Orlando, Fla., then made plans to play in the GTE Byron Nelson next week, followed by the Deutsche Bank-SAP Open in Heidleberg, Germany.

After that, Woods is tentatively scheduled to play the Memorial as his warmup for the U.S. Open, June 17-20 at Pinehurst, N.C.


So how ugly was it at last week's LPGA event at Murrels Inlet, S.C.? Well, the other winner besides Rachel Hetherington was the mud.

Because of rainstorms, the City of Hope Myrtle Beach Classic was limited to 36 holes--the first time that has happened to an LPGA tournament in 18 years.

Smart move: Kris Monaghan shot a 77 on Thursday, it rained Friday and Saturday and then she didn't show up for her 8:20 a.m. tee time Sunday.

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