Finally a winner again, Aaron Baddeley raised his arms when his last putt dropped Sunday in the Northern Trust Open as his wife and two young daughters shared the moment.
They might have been among the few cheering him on at Riviera in Los Angeles.
Baddeley could hear chants of “Freddie!” at every turn, and it got even louder when Fred Couples birdied the opening three holes to take the lead. Unfazed, Baddeley cared only about a victory that was just as meaningful to him.
“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.’ I was still just trying to focus on my game, and try to do what I needed to do.”
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He did just enough.
In a battle of generations, the 29-year-old Australian closed with a 2-under 69 to hold off Vijay Singh and Couples, winning for the first time in four years.
Baddeley beat, who turns 48 on Tuesday, by two shots. Singh closed with a 69 for his best finish in more than two years. Couples, 51, bogeyed two of the last three holes and shot 73 to tie for seventh in his bid to become the PGA Tour’s oldest winner in more than 35 years.
“I’m a golfer, so I’m disappointed,” Couples said.
The Seattle native, with his tender back, stumbled on the seventh hole. Tied for the lead on the tee, he pushed his shot to the right into grass so thick he had trouble finding it. Couples wound up making double bogey, a three-shot swing when Baddeley holed a 20-footer for birdie.
“I just didn’t feel the same after that,” Couples said.
It was the third career PGA Tour win for Baddeley, who’ll return to the Masters.
Women’s No. 1 Yani Tseng shot a 6-under 66 for a five-shot victory in the LPGA Thailand, the season-opening event on the LPGA Tour. Michelle Wie (70) finished second. Bernhard Langer shot a 6-under 66 to set a tournament record with a 20-under 196 total, winning the Champions Tour’s ACE Group Classic by four shots over Fred Funk in Naples, Fla. India’s Shiv Shankar Prasad Chowrasia shot a 5-under 67 to beat Robert Coles of England by one shot in the European PGA Tour’s Avantha Masters in New Delhi.