Sun, Apr 01, 2007 - Page 23 News List

Appleby takes a share of the lead at Houston Open

BACK ON SONG The defending champion was happy to be back in form after enduring a poor run since his 13th place in the season's opening tourney

AFP , HOUSTON, TEXAS

Stuart Appleby of Australia watches his tee shot on the 16th hole during the second round of the Shell Houston Open on Friday.

PHOTO: AP

Defending champion Stuart Appleby had a lot of company at the top of the leaderboard on Friday as half a dozen players shared the halfway lead in the US$5.5 million PGA Houston Open.

Appleby fired an even-par 72 that included three birdies and three bogeys on Friday to remain tied for the lead.

The Australian had opened the tournament with a 66, his first round under 70 in 21 rounds.

"Happy to be here," Appleby said of his position. "I need to sort of get going like I did last year to move in that direction."

"We're going to have some weather tomorrow, maybe one, two inches of rain, which will slow the day up. It will be a real battle who is most comfortable with the start-stop game," he said.

Appleby tied for 13th at the season-opening Mercedes Championship but has finished no better than 33rd and missed two cuts in six events since. He won here in 1999.

"The wind was a real factor," Appleby said. "I didn't create many opportunities, and when I did, I wasn't putting well enough. So you know, I need to lift my game overall, but you know, maybe be more confident on the putting green to try and move in one direction."

With a two-day total of six-under 138, Appleby was tied with five other players, including second-year pro Bubba Watson.

Watson carded a 67 on Friday, posting a bogey on his second hole but nabbing six birdies.

Watson is seeking his first PGA title.

He finished tied for fourth at the Buick Invitational in January and has two top-10 finishes in eight starts this season. His best career finish came as a rookie last season, when he placed third at the Chrysler Classic.

"I'm trying to learn the game," Watson said. "I'm trying to learn what makes me good."

Also tied for the lead were Bob Estes (71), Jason Gore (68), D.J. Brigman (68) and Jeff Maggert (71). Estes finished second here last year.

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