A BACK injury is threatening to derail Stuart Appleby's quest for a second Australian Open golf championship.
Appleby had been grouped alongside world No.1 and defending champion Rory McIlroy and fellow former winner Geoff Ogilvy for the opening two rounds at The Australian Golf Club in Sydney.
But the 43-year-old was removed from the morning marquee group after alerting tournament director Trevor Herden of his ongoing back complaint.
"He didn't want to cause any inconvenience to anyone in such an important group, so it was good of him to let us know," Herden said.
Matt Jones, a career-long member of The Australian, has replaced Appleby and will tee off alongside McIlroy and Ogilvy at 7.05am (AEST) on Thursday.
A winner of 17 tournaments worldwide, including nine on the US PGA Tour, Appleby will play alongside 2006 champion John Senden and boom amateur Lucas Herbert in the group behind McIlroy.
Herden said that should Appleby's injury not improve and he was forced to withdraw, the next alternate into the field would take his place in the field.
Adam Scott, who until Monday was ranked second in the world behind McIlroy, will tee off just after midday alongside young American star Jordan Spieth and Masters champion Nick Cullen.
Herden announced last Friday that Scott and McIlroy, who featured in final-round thriller at Royal Sydney 12 months ago, wouldn't be paired together in a dream grouping and Herden was still explaining himself on Tuesday.
"Thursday will be a great day and part of that is Rory McIlroy," Herden said.
"If you want to go and watch Rory McIlroy in the morning, as Rory finishes you've got Adam on the first tee going off, so you can have two rounds and that's about giving the fans the opportunity to see both players for the day.
"If you locked them in (together), you'd only see one.
"The other thing is, it's not pleasant for spectators when there's a whole heap of people just following one group and it's not fair on the players ahead as well.
"All the fans tend to rush so that the group ahead really gets hammered from that perspective with movement and noise."
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