Baddeley ends four-year winless run

Aaron Baddeley shot a final-round 69 at Riviera on Sunday to win his first title in four years at the Northern Trust Open.

Aaron Baddeley shrugged aside the fact that the crowd was heavily partisan, shot a final-round 69 and held his nerve to win the Northern Trust Open at storied Riviera CC in Pacific Palisades, Los Angeles on Sunday.

In a battle between the 29-year-old Australian and men at least 20 years his senior, American-born Baddeley finished on 12 under par, two shots clear of closest challenger Vijay Singh, who turns 48 on Tuesday, and a further three shots in front of the big crowd favourite, Freddie Couples, 51, who started the day just one shot back but slipped down to a final 7th place with his closing 73.

Baddeley looked like he might blow his chances when he carded a six at the par-four 12th, but he birdied the next hole to get back on track to what would be his first victory in four years.

With Riviera being one of Couples’ favourite venues and the smooth-swinging American being one of his country’s crowd favourites, – – the on-course cry of “go Freddie, go” resounded around the course all week – you had to forgive Baddeley for thinking he might have to beat a lot more than his nerves heading out for the final round,

“I thought Freddie was going to be tough today because winning is a skill, and Freddie has been winning quite often recently,” Baddeley said.

“When he got off to a good start, I was like, ‘Freddie looks like he’s going to have one of those days where he’s going to play great.’ So I decided to forget about him and just try to focus on my own game.””

Baddeley did just that – and in the end it was enough.

“It’s definitely been a couple of long years, but it was worth every bit,” Baddeley said. “I really feel that the last couple years is actually what made it easier today … the character that it has built in me.”

Singh closed with a 69 for his best finish in more than two years, but it wasn’t enough.

And while Couples still had hopes on the 16th, bogeys at two of the last three holes shattered these hopes of becoming the PGA TOUR’s oldest winner in more than 35 years and sent him sliding down to a his 7th-place finish.

When asked if he was disappointed, Couplers said: “I’m a golfer, so of course I’m disappointed.”

Couples game began imploding when he was tied on the 7th tee and pushed his tee shot into rough to the right of the seventh fairway that was so thick he had trouble finding his ball. Getting out of there wasn’t going to be easy for a man with life-long back trouble, but he gave it a mighty wack.

The ball came out to the left and into a bunker and he wound up making double bogey and dropping back three shots after Baddeley holed a 20-footer for birdie on the same hole.

“I just didn’t feel the same after that,” Couples said. “I didn’t really hurt myself, but I never hit a shot, and I just got it around. I mean, I couldn’t hit an iron. I hit a few good drives, but I was afraid to hit the ground, hitting it that hard out of that stuff. I did get off to a good start, and that was where it ended.

“It’s nothing bad,” he said. “I’m not making excuses. It’s just a fact that after that point, I never hit a shot.”

Singh, who, not too long ago briefly ousted Tiger Woods as the World No 1, but who only three weeks ago had fallen out of the top 100 in the world for the first time in more than 21 years, had his best finish since he won the Deutsche Bank Championship and with it the FedEx Cup in 2008.

The Fijian said this was largely because he had had the best putting week of his career. It was better even than his winning week at the 2000 Masters victory.

He took only 105 putts for this week, including just one three-putt in the second round.

“That’s a great, great thing to have when you’re putting well,” Singh said. “I haven’t done that for a long, long time. This is going to get me some places.”

American Kevin Na was third on nine under after he could only manage an even par final round of 71.

Na carded four birdies and four bogeys in an up-and-down round.

Jimmy Walker, Robert Allenby and Ryan Moore finished a shot further back. Walker and Allenby both shooting 68s with Moore carding a 69.

Early tournament leader Fred Couples’ challenge faded on the final day, the 51-year-old slumping to a 73 and dropping back to a tie for seventh on seven under.

that included South Korea’s KJ Choi.

England’s Justin Rose was the highest European finisher on six under, alongside Americans JJ Henry and David Duval.

Rose finished a consistent four days with a second successive 70, having opened with two rounds of 69, but Phil Mickelson finished a disappointing tournament on one under in a tie for 35th.