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Appleby in lead after big finish

HONOLULU — The Sony Open took a while to get started. So did Stuart Appleby.

Appleby was humming along Friday on rain-soaked Waialae Country Club, no bogeys on his cards but not many birdies, either. That changed when he holed a 163-yard shot from the fairway and a 35-foot putt on the next green to finish with 6-under 64.

That gave him a one-shot lead in the opening round, delayed a day by rain. In second were nine players, including Matt Kuchar, Justin Rose, and rookies Nate Smith and Ben Martin. In soft conditions and a light breeze, 65 players in the 144-man field broke par.

Appleby shot 30 on the back nine, including a 5-iron that he holed out for eagle on the 16th and the long birdie putt on the 17th. "Less than two hours, really went from a pretty plain round to a good round," he said.

Martin, who graduated from Clemson last year, wasn't sure what to expect in his first regular PGA Tour event. He had to do a commercial shoot Tuesday and couldn't practice Wednesday because the range was closed. He didn't play Thursday. "I hadn't hit a golf shot in three days," he said.

Five of his birdies were from inside 8 feet, and two others came on the par 5s that he reached in two. Martin hadn't seen Waialae until this week, so the soft conditions didn't feel different. That wasn't the case for the veterans.

"I have never seen the course like this," Steve Stricker who shot 69. The fairways were too wet to mow, and grass clippings that had been floating in water created yellow patches of debris.

LPGA: The tour denied the request of 15-year-old Alexis Thompson to double the amount of exemptions she is allowed. But under a change in open qualifying, she can earn her way into tournaments. Thompson has asked for a limited membership that would allow her to take as many as 12 sponsor exemptions instead of six. Commissioner Mike Whan said she would be able to pursue additional playing opportunities by trying to qualify on Monday. Until this year, only tour members were allowed to Monday qualify. Thompson earned the equivalent of 34th on the LPGA money list last year. Her best finish was second at the Evian Masters.

Appleby in lead after big finish 01/14/11 [Last modified: Saturday, January 15, 2011 12:14am]

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