The veteran Australian opened the John Deere Classic with a 4-under 67 to be part of an 11 way tie for 26th place, five shots off the pace being set by American Steve Wheatcroft.
While there is a lot of golf still to be played, all in the field know there is a space reserved at Carnoustie for this week’s winner should that player not already be exempt and Appleby, like most in the field, counts himself among that number.
The 47-year-old is a nine-time winner on the American circuit though he lost playing privileges last year and has only limited access to starts in 2018.
He has showed glimpses of good form all year though hasn’t yet put together four good rounds with his best result in eight tournaments a T12 at the FedEx St Jude tournament a month ago.
Appleby will be disappointed with his finish, a three-putt bogey from long range at TPC Deere Run’s 18thone of only two blemishes for the day, but pleased overall with his game.
He is the leading contender among a seven strong Australian contingent, Matt Jones a shot behind at 3-under and T37 while Cameron Percy is 2-under and T55.
Aaron Baddeley is the last of the Australians in red figures at 1-under and T80, John Senden and Steven Bowditch 1-over and T11 while Robert Allenby is 2-over and T128.
Wheatcroft is a surprise leader after enduring a difficult year though his run to the clubhouse, with seven back nine birdies and no bogeys, was impressive.
The 40-year-old is an archetypal journeyman with no victories on the PGA Tour but is looking to take full advantage of a weaker than normal field this week as the bulk of the Tour’s big names prepare for The Open at Caroustie.
He holds a one shot lead over fellow American Michael Kim while four players share third at 7-under.
SIGNATURE HOLES - 16TH AT MONA VALE GC, SYDNEY:
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