SYDNEY, Australia (AP) _ Australia's Peter Fowler scored 17 points under the modified Stableford format Thursday to take a one-stroke lead over countryman Stuart Appleby in the ANZ Championship.

Fowler had nine birdies and a bogey on the oceanside New South Wales Golf Club course, with players receiving eight points for double eagle, five for eagle, two for birdie, zero for par, minus-one for bogey, and minus-three for double bogey or higher.

The 43-year-old Fowler is winless since the 1993 BMW International in Germany. He won the Australian Open in 1983 and was second in six European tour events between 1984 and 1992.

``It's hard work to continue playing, but my game's coming together,'' Fowler said. ``It's hard losing your card and being told you're not good enough. I've had to dig deep.''

Appleby matched Fowler with an 8-under 64, finishing with eight birdies in a bogey-free round. ``I played well and had a couple of kick-in birdies,'' Appleby said. ``A good clean round of golf.''

Australia's Peter Lonard, coming off a second-place tie last week in the Heineken Classic in Melbourne, was third with 15 points. Lonard's round included a five-point eagle on the par-5 12th and a birdie on No. 18. Countryman Craig Parry birdied the 18th to move into fourth place with 14 points.