RBC Heritage

Harbour Town Golf Links


Baddeley Back In Winner's Circle

February 20, 2011

Baddeley picked up his third career PGA Tour win and first in more than four years.

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Aaron Baddeley returned to his old swing and a title he hadn't seen in four years -- a PGA Tour winner.

In a battle of generations Sunday at Riviera, the 29-year-old Baddeley played mistake-free over the final six holes to hold off Vijay Singh and deny a fairy-tale finish for 51-year-old Fred Couples.

Baddeley closed with a 2-under 69 for a two-shot victory over Singh, who turns 48 on Tuesday.

It was the third career PGA Tour win for Baddeley, whose game had slipped so much that he had plunged to No. 224 in the world. This isn't enough to get back into the top 50, but at least he can book a trip to Augusta National in April for the Masters.

Singh, 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 highest finish since he won the Deutsche Bank Championship in 2008 on his way to the FedEx Cup. Despite back-to-back bogeys on the back nine, he gave himself a chance to the end and closed with a 69.

Singh said it was the best week with the putter in his career, which would include his 2000 Masters victory. He took only 105 putts for the 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."

The heartache, though, belonged to Couples.

Two decades after he last won at Riviera, Couples ran off three straight birdies to start his round and take the lead, revving up the Riviera gallery. But it all came crashing down with a double bogey on the seventh hole -- where Baddeley made a 20-foot birdie putt from the fringe -- and Couples never could catch up again.

Couples bogeyed two of the last three holes for a 73 and wound up in a tie for seventh. He has an MRI scheduled for his back on Monday, then plans to return to the Champions Tour until the Masters.

Baddeley, who finished at 12-under 272, won for the first time since the 2007 Phoenix Open. He had been one of the early proponents of the "Stack & Tilt" swing method until deciding to go back to his old teacher, Dale Lynch. His goal was to be able to move the ball both ways without having to think about it, and the swing held up just fine on a sunny afternoon along Sunset Boulevard.

Kevin Na made good putts on the last two holes for a 71 that put him alone in third place. Robert Allenby and Jimmy Walker each had a 68, while Ryan Moore shot 69. They tied for fourth.

Couples was trying to become the oldest PGA Tour winner in 35 years. He was showing his age on the practice range, where his back is so tender that he only warms up with a driver and fairway metals to stay more upright. With a driver in hand, he teed up two balls at a time to keep from stooping over.

On the course, he looked like the Boom-Boom of old.

Couples opened with three straight birdies to bring Riviera to life, just like the old days. He chipped in for birdie from just off the second green, pointing his club to the cup with his left hand in a pose that has become familiar over the years. Then came a 20-foot birdie on the third to give him the outright lead.

But it started to come undone on the par-3 sixth, where the tee was moved forward and the pin was front and right, away from the bunker in the middle of the green. He flared it to the right and missed a 4-foot par putt, then fell off the pace with a double bogey on the seventh. Again, it was a tee shot to the right that started his trouble.

From thick grass in the barranca, Couples hacked out into a bunker, came up short of the green and two-putted from 15 feet.

He stayed in the game for most of the round, but never got closer than two shots the rest of the way.

Na also played in the final group. His father has gone back to South Korea to battle leukemia, and Na was hopeful of being able to send the Northern Trust Open trophy to him. But he missed too many short putts, including a three-putt bogey from 12 feet on No. 8.

The biggest challenge came from Singh.

He started the final round two shots behind and got into the mix with an 8-foot birdie putt on the 236-yard fourth hole. What slowed Singh were consecutive bogeys on the 12th and 13th, two of the toughest in the final round at Riviera. He bounced back with a birdie on the par-3 16th, but was never closer than two shots on the back nine.

Right when it looked as though Baddeley was pulling away, the Australian showed some vulnerability. He hit into the trees on his tee shot and his second shot on the par-4 12th, and appeared to limit the damage until he missed a 2½-foot putt to suffer a double bogey.

Just like that, Singh and Couples were back in the game. But not for long. Baddeley rolled in a 20-foot, bending birdie putt from the fringe on the 13th to restore his lead, and no one could catch him the rest of the way.