Question: Thank you, Stuart, for joining us. Congratulations. Three time winner of the Mercedes Championship. Excellent finish there with a birdie on the last hole in regulation, backing it up with another birdie on the playoff.
Just talk about what it means to win this event again for the third time, what an accomplishment it is.
STUART APPLEBY: I'm short of words. To win it? First time great. Second time awesome. Third time, it's the wrong English, but more awesomer.
You know, I was playing well in Australia. I was practicing well coming into this event. I sort of thought, you know, everything sort of feels the same. The one thing I thought I might have been superstitious about was that I wasn't practicing in Australia and preparing like I had for the previous two wins. I was in Florida. So I thought maybe that might be my hiccup.
I came here. I liked the way, again, I was playing and practicing. Got off to a better start. I looked at that as positive thing. Was way better than last year. Just thought, I've played well here before, I've played well here before, I know what I'm doing here, keep playing, keep thinking like you almost had, you know, 12 rounds linked up together. It was like there was no break. Just put myself in the moment of the previous two years.
But to win it was great. I've obviously never had to be in a playoff for this event here. Against Vijay, he was obviously the hottest player by far for the day. I knew I just had to make, in the playoff, a birdie or an eagle. Here I am.
Q: You lost your lead temporarily there. Did you know that?
Q: I heard on TV you said something about you were surprised.
APPLEBY: No, I didn't look at the scoreboard till late in the day. I thought it would just be me and Cambo in it. I didn't expect anybody I didn't sense anybody doing anything. Vijay was obviously far enough ahead of me where he could have done something without me really knowing. I looked at the leaderboard, I saw where he was and I said, "Okay, let's bank him making him birdie on 18. I've got to birdie two of the last three. That will put me ahead." I hit a great shot into 16. I was wrapped at it and then spun it off the green. Ended up making a great par.
17, I had a good chance, a good read, just didn't quite hit it in my line. I wanted to make that one. I thought, well, three is not likely on 18. Not many eagles there, but plenty of birdies. I've got to at least make a birdie to force a playoff and then start again.
Q: First saw the leaderboard when you were on 16?
APPLEBY: 15 green, when I saw him. When I was walking up to the green, I saw it, I saw where he was. I thought, I got to make some birdies coming in. I thought I was probably in the lead. You know, I thought I was no problem. Obviously Vijay came from deeper in the pack from even you guys would have thought, because I knew there was no one else even doing anything that was closer to us. Vijay I thought was a little bit out of the radar. But that score was just phenomenal.
Q: None of these wins have been easy for you. Was this the hardest because there was a playoff or were there other factors involved? Came down to the last putt each time for you, didn't it?
APPLEBY: Just about, yeah. This one was the hardest in test of your game and mentally and physically because it was a real windy week. I mean, look at the scores. They were way worse than we've well, than I've ever been here, that I can remember.
So, yeah, every player was making mistakes. I made some mistakes yesterday and some today. But I felt like evening I did today was basically right. I just misread a couple putts, things like that. I wasn't disappointed with any part of my game. You just can't make everything. You just can't hit every club perfect. But this was definitely harder conditions and obviously to stretch it out to an extra hole made it more difficult.
Q: What was your reaction when the second shot on the playoff on 18 goes over the top?
APPLEBY: I thought it might have just ran off into the fluffy stuff off the back left of the green. I thought, well, that may not even be an easy up and down because the grass is very fluffy. I'm not going to hit it very far. I mean, if it's on the green, I'm feeling like, okay, I can make it. I knew it wasn't. So there was never an opportunity of making a three. When I saw it was deep in the trap, I thought, well, this isn't even an easy trap shot. I know the ball isn't going to run much when it comes out of the trap. I don't know, I felt pretty relaxed. The putt was a lot harder than the bunker shot, I thought.
Q: Two feet.
APPLEBY: Felt harder than the bunker shot.
APPLEBY: I don't know. I was happy in the bunker (smiling). I had a similar sort of putt. When you have putts like that, they get your attention. Your heart's pounding. You just got to sit there and say, I've hit this putt a thousand times, I've got to hit it again.
Q: Because it's so short, four feet would be better than two?
APPLEBY: I don't know.
Very relaxed on the birdie putt in regulation.
Q: What were the clubs on 16 and 17?
APPLEBY: 16, I hit a lob wedge from about 80 yards. Hit it perfect. Hit it about three yards long, three yards left. Thought it was perfect. Spun it left, spun it right off the green. So probably needed to hit a sand wedge there. Then I hit a punchy solid 9 iron about 20 something feet on 17.
Q: 9 iron?
APPLEBY: 9 iron. I killed it down there.
Q: Felt good in the bunker, terrified over the two footer.
APPLEBY: I wasn't terrified, but it had my attention. I was happy in the bunker. I feel like I've got a good bunker player. I thought, I got to get it up and down. Whether I hit it to 10 feet, whether I hit it to two, I've just got to find a way. I just have to think that.
That was sort of like sudden death in the sense that Presidents Cup was this year or last year. You know, when I was playing with Chris, I just got to find a way to make the lowest score I can on this hole. All I knew is I got to get up and down. If I hit it to 15 feet, I'm going to have to hole it. If I hit it to 15 inches, I'm going to have to hole it.
I did expect Vijay to make his putt. I expected that type of stuff. Michael holed a long putt on 4 today. I expected him to make it. 25 foot, I thought he was going to make it. I didn't expect to make mine because I had a curly putt.
You just got to expect someone to do something and then you've got to expect what you need to do yourself.
Q: We'll remember the bunker shot because it was so good. It would seem probably the 6 footer on 16 was probably your tournament.
APPLEBY: Yeah, I mean, that was yeah, probably. Then if I would have had to hole a 20 something footer on 17 to pull that one back, yeah.
Q: What did that putt do, 16?
APPLEBY: It was a big curler. How far was it? Six feet. Probably had about a foot of break in it. Felt pretty happy over that, comfortable. I thought, I'm going to feed that ball out there and I reckon it will feed back. As soon as I hit it, I thought, this is definitely going to touch hole. Down it went.
Q: Must have been nice, last year your wife was going to have the baby, now having the wife and baby watch you win. Doubly exciting?
APPLEBY: Yeah. We've got another one coming. It must be the last parts of her being pregnant that give me the thing to win.
Q: You talked the other day about climbing back into the top echelon of the world ranking. How do you take advantage this time of the fast start and do that this year?
APPLEBY: Play the same. Just think about this. This obviously is great food for thought, this tournament, for me. It gives me a lot of good feelings, vibes, whatever you want to call them. And that's really what I've got to take to every tournament: think the same way, act the same way, same thought pattern, recreate. That's really what you do when you play well, and when you play well again, it's because you're recreating, I guess the same juices are flowing.
Q: How remarkable is Vijay's 66 today?
APPLEBY: Awesome round. I have no clue how he did it highlight wise, whether he stiffed at all or holed everything. But that's a very impressive round of golf. That's a low number that would have won it comfortably by a longshot. I sort of thought, too, I can't lose this tournament, I can't lose this tournament. The score you know, Joe said something on 15 green, he said, "This is our party, he's not invited." And I thought, "You're right, Joe. I can't change his score card, but he can't do this. We've got to find a way. This is our tournament."
He nearly did.
Q: Did you get the sense that you had the advantage because they have to take it away from you after three years?
APPLEBY: No, I don't. The golfing Gods don't realize that. Dice is fresh every year. You know, I just knew what I had to do coming down the stretch was like what I had to do nearly every year. I just had to find a way to birdie some holes. You cruise along through the tournament, there comes a time when you have to push. I pushed and nearly paid the price on 16. Pushed and tried on 17, nearly got it. When you push, you almost get it, then you do, that's a very rewarding feeling. It really became like a match play the last three holes because I knew now I knew what number I had to post. Before, I thought, play my own game, shoot my own score. Cambo is probably the threat. Then he didn't become the threat. Then I look up, all of a sudden see Vijay. It's like, "Holy cow, he's going to pass me if I don't watch it."
He had a great run across the line. I guess I had enough to just squeeze it out, but it had to be done in a playoff versus one shot victory like before.
Q: Are you comfortable with the title King of Kapalua?
APPLEBY: King of Kapalua? Yeah, that sounds good (smiling).
Q: Own the place or just leasing?
APPLEBY: Someone said to me this morning that, said, "You should have bought property." I heard that so many times this week. The guy said, "You don't need to buy property; you own the golf course." I thought, that's cool. I said, "Yeah, we'll see, we'll see."
Q: Who said that to you?
APPLEBY: I don't know. A guy staying at the hotel.
Q: What do you do with three Mercedes Benz's?
APPLEBY: I guess drive one a little bit, go get in the other one, drive the other one, park that one, drive the other one. Got to keep them all loose.
Q: Where are they?
APPLEBY: I haven't got the second one. The first one is parked in Florida.
Q: Slow mail?
APPLEBY: We tried to get one in Australia, but it was a bit tricky. Australian government likes to get hold of luxury vehicles. That deal didn't work out.
I think I don't know what I'm going to do with cars. I guess it's nice. Premium end of vehicles to win, quite nice on the Tour.
Q: You, Michael and Vijay were tied. What happened to Michael the last few holes?
APPLEBY: Cambo, we were I mean, he made a good par on, what was it, 13. I missed it there. 14, he made a great 4 there. I had an opportunity, missed it. Down to the par 5, that's where I made a good birdie, and Cambo made a bogey. That's where it sort of separated and sort of left Cambo out of the taking.
Frustrating for him because I think he was so close to sort of moving with me, and then obviously chasing Vijay. That's golf. This tournament basically slapped everybody around at certain times. It was the guy who wasn't going to get slapped enough that was going to win.
Q: You mentioned before you started this thing, you have this bunker shot, you can play it, but you still have to execute it. Did you feel at all that way standing on the 18th tee in regulation?
APPLEBY: I knew where the pin was. I knew where to tip my tee shot. I knew exactly where I had to hit my second shot. I mean, everyone knows how to play that hole. I had a pretty diabolical chip, but I knew, sort of had a good feeling of where I had to hit it. Not much else I can say except I hit a great chip.
Obviously, ideally I was thinking in my mind, you chip this in, this will be an awesome finish. You make a three, no playoff, it's all over, Cinderella story. I got it close. I was very happy with that chip. I think out of 10 chips, that would have been probably the top one or two by far.
Q: Last year I guess you lost your momentum from winning this because you had the baby, you didn't play much. Are you going to play a heavy schedule earlier this year?
APPLEBY: I don't think my schedule will change as much. I'm not going to try and capitalize. I don't think my schedule's going to change much with number two. They'll be pretty similar. Yeah, last year there was a definite back off. I went and did Tiger Tasmania, which I'd love to do again now. De'ja vu. Would be nice. I'm not going to back off. My schedule weakened up a lot with Ella. Worked out pretty good. I'll be actually playing a fair bit of the Florida swing. She can travel. She's on the road. Before, actually in Aussie, I couldn't fly, so I had to sort of stay, stay, stay. The weeks ticked off.
Q: Do you think it sets you up for a much better year than last year?
APPLEBY: I don't think last year was a disadvantage by any means, no. I played a lot of golf at the end of the year. But if I keep playing if I can start throwing in a few tournaments a tournament every four like this, the way I'm feeling and playing. You know, putting was pretty critical here. This wasn't the best week I've putted by a longshot. I putted better the last two years. But this was tougher greens than we ever had.
I have to have one week maybe one in three, one in four, one in six events where I feel like I'm playing like this, and, you know, I'll have a great year.
Q: Do you get any special perks as defending champion beyond obviously coming back? Good room at the Ritz?
APPLEBY: Nice room this year, yeah. That was my perk. Even better next year, I hope (smiling). Could almost play cricket in the room we had.
Q: Is that what you get as the defending champion or did you just ask for it?
APPLEBY: No, I just take what I get. Whatever. Got a nice view. Yeah, it's nice.
Q: You talk about trying to repeat a lot of the recreating a lot of things you've done on the golf course this year from the year before. Do you try to do the same preparation, come at the same time?
APPLEBY: No, I came a little bit earlier because I was coming from the East Coast, which I hadn't done. The Australian time difference was only three hours, although the day is irrelevant. Three hours' difference. Pretty easy to get over jetlag.
This week coming from the East Coast was a lot longer flight. Three hour plus fight, longer to go from Florida to here. So I came in early. I don't want to get to the Wednesday or Thursday, I don't want to be lethargic. I felt pretty good. I got up way early in the morning. This morning was my biggest sleep in by a longshot. That little monkey kept us up for a while in the middle of the night.
Q: When did you get here?
APPLEBY: Sunday afternoon, late afternoon.
Q: Was there ever a point today, whether you saw Vijay's name on top of the leaderboard or whatever, that you thought your luck had run out or your string had run out, whatever you want to call it?
APPLEBY: No, never. I just knew where there's a will, there's a way. I knew I wasn't really ever behind. If I was behind, and it was unattainable, yeah, it would have felt that way. I thought, no, no, no, come on. I knew I had to do this. I felt no one is going to make a stupid run at this. That's when I had to take a breath and go, all right. What Vijay did completely clarified what I had to do.
Q: Does this win make you Australia's best golfer whose name starts with A?
APPLEBY: Australia's best golfer in Hawaii, I am. No one comes close to me in Hawaii from Australia (smiling).
Q: At least on Maui.
APPLEBY: Maui, that's right.
Transcripts provided by ASAP Sports.
January 9, 2006