Aaron Baddeley claimed his first U.S. PGA Tour title in four years, pulling away from Vijay Singh
and Fred Couples to win the Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club.
Baddeley, a 29-year-old Australian, entered the final round with a one-shot lead and closed with a 2-under-par 69 to finish 12-under for the tournament in Pacific Palisades, California, two shots better than runner-up Singh.
Baddeley receives $1.17 million for the victory, his third on the PGA Tour. He’d gone 96 starts since his last win on the circuit, at the 2007 FBR Open, slipping to 224th in golf’s Official World Ranking.
“It’s definitely been a couple of long years, but it was worth every bit,” Baddeley, who changed his swing two years ago, said at a news conference. “I really feel that the last couple years is actually what made it easier just because of having to battle and grow into so much.”
Singh, who turns 48 tomorrow, was second at 10-under -- his best Tour finish since winning the Deutsche Bank Championship in September 2008 -- followed by Kevin Na at 9-under.
Couples, seeking to become the PGA Tour’s oldest winner in 35 years at age 51, shot a final-round 73 to tie for seventh place at 7-under par. Couples began the day one stroke off the lead and opened with three straight birdies before making four bogies and a double-bogey over his final 15 holes.
“Everybody was yelling out, ‘Freddie, Freddie, Freddie,’” said Baddeley, who was grouped with Couples. “I knew he was going to be the fan favorite, and no reason why he shouldn’t be. He’s been such a great player over the years.”
Baddeley recovered from a double-bogey at the 12th hole -- his only dropped shots during the final round -- by sinking a curling 27-foot birdie putt at the par-4 13th hole that extended his lead to three strokes.
Tiger Woods returns to action Feb. 23 at the $8.5 million World Golf Championships Accenture Match Play Championship in Marana, Arizona, where the 64-man field features all but one of the top 64 players in the world rankings.
Woods, a three-time World Match Play winner who’s ranked third, is scheduled to play Denmark’s Thomas Bjorn in the first round. World No. 1 Lee Westwood of England is set to meet Sweden’s Henrik Stenson, who secured the 64th spot when Japan’s Toru Taniguchi withdrew because of a neck injury. Second-ranked Martin Kaymer of Germany faces South Korea’s Noh Seung-yul.
Defending champion Ian Poulter of England will open against American Stewart Cink.
Photo - Getty
By Erik Matuszewski, Bloomberg