Aussie Rules at Riviera: Baddeley Returns To Winning Form

Aaron Baddeley wins the 2011 Northern Trust Open / Image: Harry How/Getty Images
Aaron Baddeley wins the 2011 Northern Trust Open / Image: Harry How/Getty Images

Eucalyptus trees, Kikuyu grass – Riviera Country Club might be found in Pacific Palisades, California but it has a distinctly Australian feel, right down to the pro golfers that win tournaments on its hallowed grounds.

On Sunday, New Hampshire born/Australian raised Aaron Baddeley (67-69-67-69-272) added his name to the list of Aussie victors at Riviera by winning the 2011 Northern Trust Open.  He joins countryman Steve Elkington, Robert Allenby, and Adam Scott, a fact not lost on Baddeley. “Yeah, winning here is special. I love, love coming here. I’ve been on TOUR since ’03 and haven’t missed a year here yet, and not planning on it. I just love coming here. I still remember one of my first tournaments I remember is when Steve Elkington won here against Colin Montgomerie in a playoff (1995 PGA Championship), so there are a lot of memories of that when I first came here. So just coming here was special, to play here. And to win here is even — it’s amazing.”

It was the culmination of quite a journey for the 29-year old that burst on to the PGA Tour after a storied amateur career but stalled in his ascent after committing the same sin as many before him – trying to change the golf swing that got him where he was in a search for something better.

With his last win some four years ago it has been a trying process for “Badds”, one of the more popular players on tour, to tap back into his natural ability and return to the winner’s circle on the PGA Tour for the third time.

51-year old Fred Couples tried to put himself between Baddeley and the Northern Trust trophy but the 2-time former champion could not sustain his final round charge that included birdies on the first three holes.  By the time the final group made the turn Baddeley looked firmly in charge, with a three stroke lead after ten holes.  That was jeopardized a bit by a couple bogey on the 12th hole but his bounce back birdie on the 13th hole created a margin that pursuers like Vijay Singh (2nd at 68-70-67-69-274) could not close.

Despite the struggles that saw Baddeley wallow near the 100 mark in the FedEx Cup standings the last two years he says the hard work he was doing helped prepared him to win again on the PGA Tour.

In 2009 Baddeley reunited with his original golf coach, Dale Lynch, who he had worked with from ages 13 to 20. “It’s definitely been a couple of long years, but it was worth every bit, and I really feel that the last couple years is actually what made it easier today just because of having to battle and having to grow into so much for a couple years, the character that was just built in me, I guess,” said Baddeley when asked what it meant to get a win after suffering some recent adversity with his game. “Like today after 12 I struggled on the 12th hole, made a silly double there, and just to be able to just let it go and get onto the next hole and forget about it and hit two nice shots there and make a birdie, that was key.”

Baddeley returned to working with Lynch in 2009 and says he has been making progress in returning to his old swing, away from the Stack & Tilt Method he had been using, it was just not showing up on the scoreboard.  “I actually felt like I’ve made more progress than what the scores have actually shown to be honest. I felt like I could have played better earlier, just the scores weren’t on the board. But each time we’d make progress we’d take a step or two back. After you’d make the progress, go out on the course, play a tournament, something would pop up and you’d have to fix that. So just step by step, we just sort of put the pieces together, built the foundation, and it was great, like the product today was just being able to hit the shots really that I needed to hit.”

Of course, because of the win more changes are in store for Baddeley – this time not swing related.  With his Northern Trust win he will now be in the field for The Masters and the World Golf Championship events.

Save for one of course, this week’s Accenture Match Play Championship; instead he’ll be in the field for the Mayakoba Golf Classic in Mexico where he will join ten other Aussies in the field.

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