The US-based Australian led by one shot from a group of five players headed by Greg Norman as only 13 golfers broke the par of 72.
Appleby's world fell apart last July when his wife of 19 months was crushed to death between two cars outside Waterloo Station in London. The 27-year-old Victorian tried frantically to bring her back to life by the roadside.
In a round that would have been universally hailed by his sympathetic peers, Appleby had six birdies and three bogeys.
Appleby has a different slant on life these days. He is still fragile emotionally and is taking things a step at a time as he rebuilds his life. "I have lived this nightmare for four months and it's not getting any easier," Appleby told a roomful of hushed reporters.
"I'm getting used to going to bed by myself, or waking up and not having her walk around, but it does not change the fact that I can't do without her."
Appleby realises nothing is constant, even down to his golf, which was on a rising plane after winning the Kemper Open, his second career US Tour win, just before Renay's death. "I now find myself a bit more edgy, temperamental, one minute I'm good, one minute I'm bad, very up and down," he said. "I feel I can concentrate well at times but I'm not far away from having trouble, it's very hard to keep playing constantly. That's what I'm trying to do this week, not trying to expect too much and beat myself up and just be patient."
Norman made a successful return to the office, casting aside the cobwebs of eight months away from golf to make a rousing start to his first 72- hole tournament since shoulder surgery. He had six birdies, a double-bogey at the 544-yard ninth hole and two bogeys in his round of 70.
"I'm very happy with the day considering it is my first competitive round since April," Norman said. "I felt pretty much in shape and hit a lot of good shots. I think it's going to be hard for anyone to go around this course without hitting two or three bogeys. I don't care how good you are hitting the ball. The course forces you to play defensively."
Nick Faldo and Fred Couples had wretched first rounds. Faldo returned 77, including six bogeys, while Couples was one under par after seven holes before slumping with four consecutive bogeys to finish on 76.
It was a good day for Justin Rose, who has not made the cut in eight attempts since turning professional following his fourth in last summer's Open Championship. He was well set after an opening 72.
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