The Associated Press
The Associated Press
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.
He called on that faith hours later yesterday 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 said.
Baddeley won his first PGA Tour title, rallying with two late birdies and finishing off ex-Arizona Wildcat Jim Furyk with a scrambling par on the 18th.
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 No. 11.
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.
Baddeley shot a 1-under-par 70 to finish at 15-under, a stroke ahead of Furyk (71) and two ahead of Vaughn Taylor (66) and Billy Mayfair (69).
“This is a steppingstone 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.
“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 he 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 straight year.
“The putt at 18, could have been the best putt I hit all week,” Furyk said, even though it did not go in.
Baddeley raised his arms in triumph after his winning putt, Richelle squealing happily alongside the green.
Baddeley won $954,000 and, perhaps more important because he was ranked 158th on the money list coming in, gained a tour exemption through 2008.
BEIJING – Jeev Milkha Singh became the second Indian player to win on the PGA European Tour, closing with a 2-under 70 for a one-stroke victory over Spain’s Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano in the China Open.
Singh had a 10-under 278 on the Nick Faldo-designed Beijing Honghua International course.
Countryman Arjun Atwal has two European tour wins, the 2002 Malaysian Open and 2003 Singapore Masters.