By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. -- To say Aaron Baddeley's title defense at the Northern Trust Open didn't get off to the best of starts would be an understatement.
He started on the back nine at Riviera on Thursday and promptly bogeyed the 10th hole, a drivable par 4 that was playing as the fourth-easiest that day, and then made a double bogey at the 12th. The resulting 73 left Baddeley in a distant tie for 53rd.
The Aussie roared into contention on Saturday, though, when he fired a solid 66. So Baddeley will start the final round at 5 under with a very legitimate chance to win at Riviera for the second straight year.
"I got off to that poor start on Thursday, 3 over after 3, and sort of battled well and shot 1 under from there coming in," Baddeley said. "I played well yesterday. I felt like I played better than 2 under. So it was a little disappointing but my game felt good, so I was keen to get out there early, get the best of the greens and post a score, which I did."
Baddeley's round included birdies on his last three holes -- from 33 feet, 13 inches on the par-5 17th and a 3-footer on the final hole. Those brought his total for the day to seven against just two bogeys, and left Baddeley two shots behind Phil Mickelson.
"It's always a great way to finish," Baddeley said. "I hit a great putt on 16, then hit great shots all coming home there. I'll take that tomorrow and try and get another one."
Baddeley, who started the final round a year ago with a one-stroke advantage, knew he needed to go low on Saturday to have a chance to repeat.
"I had to shoot 4 , 5 , 6 under today to give myself a realistic chance," he said. "So it was pleasing, pleasing just the way I played really nicely all day. Especially finishing off like I did was good."