HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. -- Aaron Baddeley began the day in
the most perfect place he could imagine, on Harbour Town's
lighthouse closing hole speaking about his Christian faith.
"I said, 'This is for you Jesus,' and knocked it in."
He called on that faith hours later Sunday on the same hole,
repeating part of a New Testament verse as he stood over the
winning 6-foot par putt in the final round of the Verizon Heritage.
"I said, 'This is for you Jesus,' and knocked it in," Baddeley
Baddeley won his first PGA Tour title, rallying with two late
birdies and finishing off Jim Furyk with a scrambling par on the
Baddeley was tied with Furyk entering the round, had a two-shot
lead by the fifth hole, then was down by that many to Furyk after
But the 25-year-old Australian proved unflappable, birdieing two
of the hardest holes on the PGA Tour -- the 14th was statistically
the hardest par 3 on tour last year and the 15th was the hardest
par 5 -- to move in front for good.
"This is a stepping stone of the big picture," Baddeley said.
For his golf career, it's winning majors. For his life, it's
following his faith.
Golf fans might best know Baddeley as the young hotshot in the
golf commercial, driving a convertible with young female fans
yelling his nickname, "Badds." It's an image the first-time
winner says he's not fully comfortable with and one he expects will
change over time.
"My scores don't dictate who I am," Baddeley said.
He aspires to use his golf career as a ministry to reach others.
He celebrated his one-year anniversary this past Saturday. He
eagerly agreed to the early morning service during The Players
Championship, not knowing if he'd make the cut at Harbour Town.
Two days earlier, Baddeley closed his second round with an
unlikely eagle at the famous lighthouse hole.
"At the 18th hole this morning, he was giving amazing
testimony," said Baddeley's wife, Richelle. "Ten hours later,
he's holding the trophy. So, it was great."
Furyk, the 2003 U.S. Open winner seeking his first victory since
the Western Open last summer, was seemingly in the clear when his
birdie on No. 10 and Baddeley's miscue on No. 11 put him up by two
shots. However, Furyk missed a 5-footer for par on the 12th hole
and could not match Baddeley's touch at the end.
Furyk had his chances to tie after Baddeley chunked a chip shot
at the par-3 17th and made bogey. But Furyk followed by missing a
10-foot par putt to remain one back.
Again on the 18th hole, Furyk had a tying 12-foot birdie putt,
but slid it left. Baddeley, who missed the green when his second
shot went long and right, then won with the 6-foot par putt that
caught the right edge of the cup and dropped in.
"I just needed some of those putts on the back nine to go in,"
said Furyk, who finished second at Harbour Town for the second
"The putt at 18, could have been the best putt I hit all
week," Furyk said.
Baddeley raised his arms in triumph after his winning putt,
Richelle squealing happily alongside the green.
Baddeley won $954,000 and, perhaps more importantly because he
was ranked 158th on the money list coming in, gained a tour
exemption through 2008.
He has three victories in Australia, winning the Australian Open
as an 18-year-old amateur in 1999 and successfully defending his
title as a professional in 2000.
Baddeley also won the 2001 Greg Norman Holden International, and
finished 10th on the Nationwide Tour money list in 2002 to qualify
for the PGA Tour. He has twice been a runner-up, in 2003 at the
Sony Open and a year later in the Chrysler Classic of Tucson.
The golfer who kicked himself the most was probably Ernie Els.
Els was the only one of the world's top five players on hand
after last week's Masters. He got himself back in the mix with 65
on Saturday and, with five top 10s in seven previous appearances
here, seemed the logical choice for a thrilling final-round charge.
Els' shot-making skill was evident right away. After cracking
his drive in the woods right of the first fairway, he punched a
mid-iron through a narrow opening between two trees to about 5 feet
of the cup. The birdie moved him within three shots of the lead as
he stepped the par-5 second, a hole where he'd gone
eagle-birdie-birdie the first three rounds.
This time, Els drove it out of bounds -- remember, the Big Easy
blew the 2003 Verizon Heritage while leading when he went OB on No.
16 -- and made bogey.
Els rebounded with three more birdies on the front to close
within two shots of Furyk and Baddeley. Els, though, could not
mount a charge to get closer. He missed birdie putts inside of 10
feet on the ninth and 10th holes. His chances ended for good after
bogeys on Nos. 12-13.
Still, Els' 71 left him tied for seventh at 10 under, his sixth
top-10 finish in eight visits to Harbour Town.
Ryuji Imada was first on the course and completed a 69 in
a remarkable 1 hour, 51 minutes. Imada ended an hour and 13 minutes
ahead of the next players. ... Defending champion Peter Lonard
finished with a 72 for a 1-over 285. ... Davis Love III finished at
1-over 285. It was the first time since 1995 the five-time Heritage
champion did not break par at Harbour Town. In 1999, Love withdrew
after the third round because of a sore back and hip.