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Golf Tidbits: Where has Stuart Appleby's game gone?

Kevin Currie, Golf Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Once the top-ranked Australian in the world, Stuart Appleby has plummeted in the world rankings as his winless streak stretches into its fourth season.

Appleby owns eight PGA Tour titles, including three straight wins at the winners-only Mercedes Championships, now known as the SBS Championship. The Australian ended his run of three straight wins at that event in 2006, and later that season won the Houston Open. Since then, nothing, at least in terms of wins.

Appleby had a decent 2007 with four top-10 finishes worldwide, and two top-12 finishes in the four majors. The following season, he was off to a blazing start. After missing the cut in his first start of the '08 season, Appleby reeled off six consecutive top-10s, five of which came on the PGA Tour. But following that hot start, he posted just two more top-10s the rest of 2008.

Despite making the cut in all four majors and tying for second at the WGC- Bridgestone Invitational, he was unable to break back into the winners circle.

Last year, Appleby had five times as many missed cuts (10) as top-10 finishes, (two). Two of his missed cuts were at the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship.

Things have not gotten any better this season. Appleby has started in seven PGA Tour events and made the cut just twice. Neither time did he finish in the top 60.

He will be absent from the WGC event this week, making it three in a row that he has missed after playing in 32 straight WGC events.

With all of his struggles, Appleby has plummeted to No. 151 in the world. Not only that, but there are now 13 fellow Australians ranked ahead of Appleby in the current world rankings. His star has fallen so much that he needed to use a one-time exemption to keep his PGA Tour card this season. The exemption he used stems from him being ranked in the Top 25 on the PGA Tour's career money list.

Last year was the first time since his rookie year that he finished outside the top 125 on the money list, which is the cutoff point to keep your tour card for the next season.

Appleby's poor form also cost him a spot on the International Presidents Cup team last year, after he had played the previous five teams.

His driving distance this year has fallen more than 18 yards from his peak of 300.6 yards in 2005, and his greens in regulation stats have fallen below 60- percent for the first time since he joined the PGA Tour.

Those two stats do not tell the entire story, but hitting the ball shorter and hitting fewer greens is a recipe for higher scores and poor results.

What makes his fall from grace unusual is that there is no injury to blame. Appleby has just has just lost his game. He went so far as to joke about it on his Twitter page.

After he made the cut last week at the Honda Classic, Appleby posted this on his Twitter account, "Made the cut...Stop the press."

LOOK OUT FOR THE MOLINARI BROTHERS

Francesco and Edoardo Molinari continue to set firsts on the PGA Tour, and in the golf world in general. This week, they were ranked back-to-back in the official world golf rankings.

Edoardo, the younger of the two and the 2005 U.S. Amateur champion, was ranked 47th, less than one average point ahead of Francesco.

The world golf rankings started in 1987, so it is difficult to say they are the highest-rated brothers ever. One thing is for sure, they will be the first brother combination to play at the Masters since Jumbo and Joe Ozaki in 2000.

It will be the second trip to Augusta for Edoardo, whose U.S. Amateur victory gained him a spot in the 2006 Masters field. Francesco caddied for his brother that week, when the younger Molinari played alongside defending champion Tiger Woods for the first two rounds.

In the past few months, they have established a pair of familial firsts. In November, they became the first brothers to win the Omega Mission Hills World Cup, and in February were the first brothers to qualify for a World Golf Championship event when they both competed at the Accenture Match Play Championship.

Francesco has won once on the European Tour, while Edoardo was victorious twice last season on the European Challenge Tour. However, Edoardo is off to a better start this year with a pair of fourth-place finishes.

Including the three Ozaki brothers - who combined for over 140 wins on the Japan Golf Tour - there have been other previous outstanding brother combinations in golf. Dave and Mike Hill posted over 51 professional wins, and Lanny and Bobby Wadkins had over 20 professional wins, including Lanny's victory at the 1977 PGA Championship.

Francesco and Edoardo have plenty of time to catch these "other brothers," as they are just 27 and 29 years old, respectively.

MINI-TIDBITS

- Ryo Ishikawa was one of two players ranked in the top 50 in the world to miss last week's WGC - CA Championship. His excuse? He was at his high school graduation.

- Steve Pate, a six-time winner on the PGA Tour and two-time Ryder Cupper, became the oldest winner on the Nationwide Tour when he won the Bogota Open last week. Pate will turn 49 on May 26.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Kevin Currie at kcurrie@sportsnetwork.com.

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