15 Jan 2021 | Professional golf |
Free-flowing Badds goes back to the future
by Mark Hayes
When Aaron Baddeley was at his potent best, it almost appeared as if he was on auto pilot.
Now, in his 21st year as a professional, the Victorian has gone back to the future – and it came up trumps at the Sony Open in Hawaii today.
Baddeley was the leader today among seven Aussies in the first full event of the US PGA Tour year – and all of them left Wai’alae Country Club with a red number alongside their names.
Three players – Americans Peter Malnati, Jason Kokrak and Chilean Joaquin Niemann – lead after rounds of eight-under-par 62.
But Baddeley is among six players who share fourth at six under on a day of low scoring.
Of his compatriots, Marc Leishman found touch late to close with a 66, defending champ Cam Smith is handy after a 67, one clear of Cam Davis with another stroke back to Adam Scott, Rhein Gibson and reigning Australian Open champ Matt Jones.
Baddeley, though, showed glimpses of his imperious best, despite having made only one cut in his six events this season.
“Honestly, it's been a really weird stretch because I feel like I've been playing well. I'd play all right and hit one poor shot or something and end up missing the cut by a shot,” he said today after seven birdies and just one bogey.
“I feel like I missed a bunch of those by one shot. It's such a fine line. I felt like I was playing well and just wasn't quite getting it done.”
But a recent switch to Tiger Woods’ old coach Butch Harmon has mean a more simple mindset for a man who’s been prone to swing complications throughout a career which has yielded four US PGA Tour wins and four wins on home soil, too.
He said Harmon’s swing tips revolved around him “releasing” his head and body through the ball at impact, but remarkably for those who’ve watched him be one of the globe’s best putters at times in his stellar career, it was the flat stick that got things going today.
“It was nice to make a few today … it’s funny how when you make one, you feel like you can make them all,” he said before elaborating on the simplicity of his approach.
“Sort of freeing it up ... just really trying to make the putt.
“It sounds weird, but trying to just make it instead of trying to hit the right line or hit the right speed.
“Just step up and make it. That was my thought today.”
Smith, who opened four over in his first two holes last year in Honolulu before roaring through the field, made a birdie on his first hole today.
But, the opposite to Baddeley, his putter then cooled down in what he otherwise described as a “solid” round.
“I actually really struggled on the greens, which has been probably the best part of my game for a while now,” the Queenslander said.
“So yeah, back to the (practice) putting green this afternoon and hit a few putts.”
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