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Sun, Appleby back

Nine players are tied one behind the leader at 5-under as Waialae Country Club dries out enough for Round 1

By Ann Miller

LAST UPDATED: 2:18 a.m. HST, Jan 15, 2011

After two days of downpours, the PGA Tour's first full-field event of the year finally started yesterday. A guy from Down Under turned it upside down.

Australian Stuart Appleby, perhaps thinking he was still on Maui, bolted into the lead of the suddenly sunny Sony Open in Hawaii. He shot 6-under-par 64 at a shockingly playable Waialae Country Club.

Wednesday and Thursday, the course was under water and Appleby was swinging his sand wedge on the lanai next door. Yesterday, he was in the midst of a "nothing special" 1-under round in which the longest putt he made was 4 feet.

Then he chipped in on the 12th, drained a 10-footer on the 13th and launched one in from 163 yards out on the 16th to move to 5 under. He knocked in a 36-foot birdie putt on the next hole to keep the lead from playing partner Justin Rose, who would birdie the 18th to shoot 65.

Rose, No. 30 in the World Golf Ranking, is part of a nine-way tie for second that includes Matt Kuchar, last year's leading money winner, who is 13th in the world. Kuchar was sixth last week at Kapalua.

He kick-started his round with a 24-foot eagle putt on the ninth hole -- one of eight eagles there yesterday. Turtle Bay's Tony Finau got one, from 9 feet out, and finished at 71, tied with Castle High graduate Dean Wilson and University of Hawaii freshman David Saka.

Shigeki Maruyama joined the crowd at 65, birdieing five consecutive holes around the turn, all from inside 10 feet. Maruyama has played every Sony and has six top-25 finishes, including a third in 2005.

Mark Wilson and Steve Marino played the last five holes in a combined 8 under to get to 65, along with Nathan Smith, one of nine rookies who made their first PGA start yesterday. Smith attributed his 65 to "not having time to think about it" after all the weather-induced confusion leading up to his debut.

At the other end of the been there/done that spectrum is Appleby, who turns 40 in May and is the reigning Comeback Player of the Year. He won three straight Mercedes Championships at Kapalua and hadn't finished outside the top 125 on the money list since 1996 -- until 2009.

Last year he played on a one-time exemption for those among the top 25 on the career money list. He won $2 million and captured the Greenbrier Classic when he became the fifth in tour history to fire a 59.

Appleby didn't even bother to hit a ball after Wednesday's Pro-Am was canceled and Thursday's first round postponed.

"If you know what you're thinking about, what you're trying to do, you don't need to hit balls," he insisted yesterday, before heading out to hit balls. "I've been here long enough. What am I going to learn that's totally new? Like, 'Oh my God, I've got it.' Nothing. It's not going to happen."

This tournament looked like it might not happen earlier this week, when 4 inches of rain flooded an already saturated Waialae. Somehow, the ponds, puddles and casual water had disappeared yesterday, seemingly funneled into the now fast-flowing stream that cuts through the course.

They were replaced by sun, 90 percent humidity and a little mud the little galleries had to avoid. The greens, too wet to cut, were slow. Some debris, left from ponding, was the only other reminder of the heavy rain and the heavy workload the greenskeepers had undertaken.

The golfers were able to lift, place and clean their ball, but that could end for today's second round. The cut will be made tonight, with the "nearest number to 60" advancing to the final 36 holes tomorrow.

All the delays had the golfers ready to go yesterday, particularly the usual Sony suspects. Chris Riley, who finished in the top 35 at all but one of the first eight Sonys, shot 66. Chad Campbell, second here in 2006 and eighth last year, is among 11 another shot back

Defending champion Ryan Palmer shot a bogey-free 68 and is tied with 2002 champ Jerry Kelly.

Jonathan Byrd, who won the Hyundai Tournament of Champions last week at Kapalua, shot a 69 despite going three days without hitting a ball. He finally drove to Hawaii Kai on Thursday for 90 minutes on the range. He is tied with 2007 Sony champ Paul Goydos, who was 3 under at the turn but double-bogeyed the 15th.

Byrd beat playing partners -- and former Sony champions -- Jim Furyk and Ernie Els by a shot.

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