A rejuvenated Stuart Appleby has put memories of a miserable 2012 US PGA Tour campaign behind him and declared there is no reason he can not be a contender at the Australian Open starting at The Lakes this week.
"If I play like I can, I can win, absolutely," Appleby said. "I like windy conditions, which is probably what’s going to prevail there and I feel like I’ve got a good knowledge of the golf course.
"I feel like there’s nothing really too tricky out there. I would love to get amongst the thick of it."
Appleby will join an interesting field featuring leading locals, a smattering of internationals and two extremes – 62-year-old multiple major winner Tom Watson and 14-year-old Chinese prodigy Guan Tianlang.
Recent Australian Masters winner and Australian No.1 Adam Scott and English world No.4 Justin Rose will head the favourites.
Appleby, 41, finished 162nd on the US Tour money list this season and had to use his one-off career-earnings exemption in order to play in America again in 2013.
But he is confident he is now over a persistent back problem which he said ruined his swing and has ramped up his fitness program.
"I’ve probably got it back the last three months plus and I’ve been working on getting my confidence back and I really feel I’m on top of that now," Appleby said during a clinic at Yarra Bend public course. "I’m a bit more emotionally excited.
"When my body degraded, my swing degraded and then my confidence degraded, which is so important when you’re trying to get out of a hole."
He also put to bed speculation that his poor recent form, coupled with his back problems could lead him to quit soon.
"I know I’m in good enough shape and have enough attributes in my game, there’s no way I want to stop," he said. "I’ve got too much unfinished business and I love the game too much."
Guan Tianlang shot to immediate fame just two years into his teens recently when he won the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in Amata Spring, Thailand.
The winner of the prestigious amateur tournament receives an invitation to the US Masters and into the final round of International Final Qualifying for the British Open.
Before lining up at Augusta, Guan will become one of the major focal points at the The Lakes from December 6-9.
He earnt a Golf Australia exemption when he won the final of the Aaron Baddeley International Junior Championship in China earlier this year.
Meanwhile, Victorian Marcus Fraser, who has been the pacesetter on the Asian Tour, will return to compete in the Australian Open and Australian PGA Championship.
Fraser is the current leader of the Asian Tour Order of Merit, regaining top spot on the rankings after finishing third at the UBS Hong Kong Open.
By: Robert Grant