Appleby's defense of his Australian Masters title in doubt with back issues

stuart appleby
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Defending champ Stuart Appleby likely won't know whether he can play or not this week until his opening tee time on Thursday.
PA Sport

Series: Other Tour

Published: Tuesday, December 13, 2011 | 1:03 p.m.

A chronic back injury threatens to derail Stuart Appleby's defense of his JBWere Australian Masters title this week at Victoria Golf Club.

The 40-year-old has given himself 24 hours to turn his fitness around and expects to be receiving treatment right up to his tee time on Thursday.

"The game's not real good at the moment, but it wasn't that good this time last year," Appleby said. "I guess you can either worry about it or find a way around it -- last year I did.

"This time last year I wasn't in a lot of pain so it wasn't too hard to actually still play and turn my body around, but this year it's been a bit more touchy," he explained. "Your swing becomes inconsistent and you become a passenger to whatever your body will let you do. That's probably the most frustrating part because that's been boiling all year."

Along with Appleby, the field includes Luke Donald and Ian Poulter, Jeff Maggert, Matteo Manassero, Geoff Ogilvy, Robert Allenby, Aron Price, John Senden, Rod Pampling, Jarrod Lyle, Brendan Jones, Paul Sheehan, Peter Lonard, Greg Chalmers, Craig Parry, Peter Senior and Gavin Coles.

Appleby, whose 65 on Sunday at last year's Australian Masters earned him a one-shot win over Adam Bland, said rest and "a bit of poking and prodding" rather than practice will be his priority ahead of the opening round.

Coming off an indifferent season on the PGA Tour where he managed just one top-10 finish, Appleby said he doesn't know the precise nature of the condition that has been with him for years, but surgery is apparently not an option.

While not wanting to disappoint the tournament's sponsors, Appleby said he was a chance to miss the pro-am to save himself for the tournament proper.

"If I can get to the tee with a bit of a gimp, so be it," he said. "But I've certainly got to get to the stage where I can hit it where it's not painful.

"My swing has been in an area this year that it's never been before and I think if you do something for long enough bad enough, then something's going to pay the price," he added. "As defending champion, I don't think that adds anything to it, but I want to play."