Baddeley still learning to deal with highs, lows on TOURFebruary 14, 2012
Vartan Kupelian, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. -- Aaron Baddeley gets a warm, fuzzy feeling when he wanders through the clubhouse at Riviera Country Club.
"The history (at Riviera) is one of my favorite things," Baddeley said. "Every year I always look at the photos in the men's locker room. I look at those photos over and over. It's just so great just to see the pictures of Hogan, the pictures of past champions ... just seeing old pictures is so awesome."
When Baddeley looks at the past champions wall this week, he'll see a photo of himself. He's the defending champion at the Northern Trust Open after outdueling Fred Couples in the final round last year and holding off Vijay Singh. It was a rewarding week's work, even for a professional golfer whose game and mettle have never been doubted. It was rewarding because it's not always like that.
Baddeley has seen the other side, most recently at The Presidents Cup. And, yes, even someone who plays the game at an elite level can continue to learn and benefit from new experiences.
"Absolutely," said Baddeley, who was a rookie Captain's Pick on Greg Norman's International team for the 2011 competition at Royal Melbourne. "The team atmosphere was special and (it was) a different type of pressure - never really played with that. Being part of the team was different. You sort of had to man-up and go out and play, play hard and perform."
Baddeley earned 1.5 points that week in his native Australia. But the same number of points that slipped away got most of the attention in the United States' 19-15 victory.
Baddeley and his partner, Jason Day, had been 2 up and were still 1 up on the 18th tee in Thursday's foursomes match against Matt Kuchar and Dustin Johnson. The tee shot on the final hole was Baddeley's, and he hit a poor drive, short and into the right rough. A par by the Americans was good enough to win the hole and halve the match.
Then, in Singles on the final day, Baddeley was beaten by Tiger Woods, 4 and 3. Baddeley's overall record in his Presidents Cup debut was 1-3-1.
"On Thursday, when I messed up on the last hole, the tee, didn't realize how much it meant to me to play for the team, to perform for the team and perform for Jason ... when I messed up, it was like I let him down and let the team down," Baddeley said.
"It was rough. That was something I didn't completely understand until afterwards. It meant a lot to me but I didn't realize how much. Everyone was supportive, everyone was like, 'Hey, don't worry about it.'"
But worry he did, not for himself but for the team. It hasn't lingered, though. Baddeley wants another shot at it, the sooner the better.
"I want to play the Presidents Cup every year," he said. "Such a great week, such a unique week. I loved being part of the team."
"I hit a really good tee shot down the first, which calmed me down."
-- Aaron Baddeley, on teeing off on 2011 at Riviera with the 54-hole lead
At Riviera, Baddeley will be on his own as he defends the title he won last year in the final-round duel against Couples, who happened to Captain the victorious U.S. Presidents Cup team nine months later. Baddeley closed with a 69 to hold off runner-up Vijay Singh and Couples, who fell back over the final three holes.
"When (Couples) got off to a birdie-birdie-birdie start, I was like, 'OK, I've got my hands full right here,'" Baddeley said. ""On No. 7, he hit a poor tee shot and made double. I made birdie and that really turned the tables a little bit, and momentum was on my side.
"Obviously, the day worked out well for me but I always enjoy playing with Freddie. I've played with him quite a few times. Yeah, that was a good day."
Baddeley has won three times on the PGA TOUR. The victory at Riviera was his first in four years, though, dating back to the 2007 FBR Open. His first win came at the 2006 Verizon Heritage. He's also won four times in Australia, including the Australian Open back-to-back as a teenager in 1999 and 2000.
Baddeley began the final round of the Northern Trust Open with the lead.
"It was the first time I had the lead for a couple of years coming into the last day," Baddeley said. "I definitely remember warming up that morning and feeling quite a bit nervous, really just excited for the round. I hit a really good tee shot down the first, which calmed me down."
Then it was all business, and Baddeley got the job done. It helped that it was Riviera, with Couples and Singh in pursuit.
"I always enjoy playing against the best in the world," Baddeley said. "Growing up as a kid, I would write letters to all the pros, Nick Faldo, Greg Norman, Nick Price, especially Greg obviously being Australian, always asked him for a practice round. We used to play practice rounds together all the time when I was a junior when he'd come down to Australia because I wanted to play with the best in the world.
"I always enjoyed the challenge of playing against the best."