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Appleby returns to Australia to help Tour

Stuart Appleby could have had a start this week at Pebble Beach, California in the AT&T Pro-Am. Instead he's playing in a tournament back home in Australia that offers a fraction of the purse.

And he paid his own way to do it.

Answering an SOS call from Andrew Georgiou, head of the cash-strapped Australasian PGA tour, Appleby decided to come to Sydney for the ANZ Championship, which offers a first-place prize of $185,000 and is played under a modified stableford format.

In the last two years, the Australasian tour has had several tournaments drop off its split-year schedule. It has also had sponsors pull out, frequent changes of its management structure and problems with its marketing.

``Things have been pretty tough economically the last few years,'' Appleby said Tuesday. ``Australia is, has and will always struggle to get name players consistently.

``I think it is fair to say that we were encouraged to come home and play some of our events. I was asked by Andrew to support it, in a `help out' situation.''

Appleby flew from his home in Florida to Sydney, then plans to fly back to California next week to pick up the last three tournaments of the West Coast Swing on the U.S. PGA Tour.

``It's not as bad as it used to be,'' Appleby said. ``I think it's good that we can thicken up the field and keep the sponsors there.''

Appleby will be joined by Craig Parry and Peter Lonard, two other Australians who could have had a start at Pebble Beach, where the winners' prize money is only slightly less than the overall ANZ purse of just over $1 million.

The ANZ Championship will be played on the oceanside par-72, 6,810-yard New South Wales Golf Club, the third-ranked club in Australia.

Last year, Sweden's Richard Johnson scored 11 points in the final round to win by two points at The Lakes Golf Club in Sydney. Johnson had a final-round 68 in stroke play for a tournament total of 46 points. Australians Scott Laycock and Parry tied for second place.

This year, players will again receive eight points for a double eagle, five for an eagle, two for a birdie, none for a par, minus-one for a bogey and minus-three for a double bogey or worse.

``The format makes you go for birdies,'' said Lonard, who finished in a tie for second with Nick Faldo, a stroke behind winner Ernie Els at the Heineken Classic at Royal Melbourne on Sunday.

``I'll be having a go, but unfortunately if you make a mistake, you're going to get penalized, and you're going to get penalized quite harshly.''

The tournament is a joint European-Australasian tour event and will feature three Ryder Cup players from Europe -- Thomas Bjorn, Niclas Fasth and Phillip Price.




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