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Nervous Appleby tries to remain calm

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Posted: April 7, 2007 10:01 p.m.
Updated: April 22, 2007 5:00 a.m.
   AUGUSTA — There’s a lot to battle at the 2007 Masters Tournament — cold temperatures, relentless winds, lightning-fast greens.
    But for Stuart Appleby, the biggest challenge is internally.
    “Getting comfortable out here is so hard to do,” said the 35-year old Australian, the 54-hole leader at 2-over par. “It’s a real mind game out here.”
    Appleby, who owns a one-shot lead over Tiger Woods and Justin Rose, said staying calm will be a main focus this afternoon during his quest to become the first Aussie to win a green jacket. The Masters is the only major championship that has not had an Australian champion.
    “I’ve found the best play comes from just relaxing, enjoying it and taking what comes,” he said. “I’ll just go out and really try to enjoy myself and understand that it’s a very different scenario from what the other days have been, certainly from a crowd point of view and where all of the fan base will be towards Tiger.”
    Appleby will be paired with Woods in the final group this afternoon, and the Masters winner has come out of the final pairing 16 straight years. Appleby has eight career PGA Tour victories since joining the Tour in 1996, winning most recently at the Mercedes Championship and the Shell Houston Open last year. He is playing in his 11th Masters and had his best finish at Augusta National in 2006 when he tied for 19th at 2-over.
    After opening with a 3-over 75 three days ago, Appleby said he wasn’t playing well enough to win, and Saturday evening he said his game feels about the same. However, his putting, he said, has improved.
    “I wasn’t comfortable (and) really was too nervous the first few days,” Appleby said. “I’m a bit more comfortable on the greens.”
    Appleby was satisfied with his play on the back nine Saturday when his only hiccup was a triple bogey on 17th, a mishap he referred to as a comedy of errors. He rebounded quickly, parring the final hole.
    “I got over it, spilled milk, move on,” he said. “Boy, you’d better move on because you’re about to try and hit a very difficult fairway and obviously a par is a huge bonus. Stuff like that happens out here. It was a tough day.”
    Appleby is anticipating another tough day today, and forecasted highs are in the mid 50s.
    “The course is just ready to slap you in the head if you do anything wrong,” he said. “You can’t find birdies. It was a real fight out there. There was no way to go out there and shoot three or four under par.”
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