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Stuart Appleby looking to maintain level

Although comfortably on track for the most successful season of his career, Houston Open champion Stuart Appleby is taking nothing for granted.

The 34-year-old from Cohuna in Australia won his second PGA Tour title of the year in record-equalling style on Sunday but is reluctant to accept that his game has now reached new heights.

"I need to play more like this," Appleby told reporters after romping to a six-shot victory at the Redstone Golf Club.

"I don't feel like winning twice has put me on another level. It's the next level on paper, but I need to keep doing this stuff for a long time. I've had good chances to win twice in previous years and didn't.

"I don't know if a player ever thinks that he's at the next level," added the big-hitting Australian, who lies fourth in the PGA Tour money list with $2,422,902.

"I think we always climb through those levels very slowly. Sometimes we don't even know we pass them.

"But I know that that level, that quality of golf, is going to put me in contention more often, and that's really what it is about, being near contention or in contention."

Although Appleby eased to the eighth PGA Tour title of his career with a closing five-under-par 67, it was the first time he has managed to win more than once in a single tour season.

Despite his reluctance to believe he may be on the verge of achieving bigger things, he conceded his play at Redstone was good enough to put him into major contention.

"If I played like that in the major, there's no doubt I can be a contender," Appleby said.

He was unsure, though, whether his performance reached the level needed to secure a first major victory.

"It was good but I haven't been in contention enough, I don't think, to know what that level was that I had then (in previous majors)," he added.

"I don't expect anything. What I expect to do is to compete my best any given week, work with what I have and respect the swing and chipping, putting, whatever is in my game.

"This week my game was at a stronger level in a rounded aspect. What I'm trying to do is get better at having a well-rounded game."

Appleby, who joined Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson as the only players with more than one PGA Tour victory this season, has produced just three top-10 finishes in 37 major starts.

His closest effort was a playoff loss in the 2002 British Open at Muirfield, where he was one of three players edged out by Ernie Els.

Although Appleby maintains he never goes into a week expecting to win, he likes his chances at venues where he feels comfortable.

Kapalua's Plantation Course in Hawaii, where he claimed a third successive Mercedes Championships crown, earlier this year, is one example. Redstone is another.

"I have come into events feeling very confident about my game, and it's not always worked," said Appleby, who completed a wire-to-wire victory at the Houston Open. "But this one it certainly did.

"Last week, when I was practising at home, I felt like if I played like I was practising I could win.

"Not going to because you don't know what someone else was going to do but I knew there would be no way I could finish out of the top 10."



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