Aaron Baddeley Wins the Battle at Riviera With Old Swing
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Tour

Baddeley celebrates after making his par putt

Stack and what? “Wilt” and “jilt” were suggestions thrown around the media center at Riviera. Aaron Baddeley, an early adopter of the Stack and Tilt method, captured his third-career PGA Tour victory at the Northern Trust Open on Sunday, posting a final round two-under 69. Baddeley, who struggled the past few years since last winning the FBR Open in 2007, switched back to his former swing and returned to working with his first swing coach Dale Lynch two years ago.

“I actually felt like I’ve made more progress (in the last two years) than what the scores have shown to be honest,” said Baddeley in his post-round press conference. “I felt like I could have played better earlier.

“I’d say the biggest change is sort of giving myself spine angle at address and then actually having the weight move a little bit to the right side and then allowing and trusting that the club will just drop on the inside and I’ll be able to rip a draw out there. That was probably the best change, to be able to not feel like I have to go to the left, to actually feel like I could have a spine angle and feel like I was away from the target, to be able to hit the draw.”

So that’s basically a huge dagger in the system taught by the Stack and Tilt founders. Ouchie.

Baddeley won by two shots over Vijay Singh, who is making a comeback of his own after struggling last season. After Fred Couples’ fast start with birdies on the first three holes, it looked like Freddie might run away with the victory. But Freddie lost momentum after several errant shots on No. 7 that led to a double-bogey.

I walked the back nine with the final group, which was extremely slow and surprisingly it wasn’t completely Kevin Na’s fault. Baddeley’s drive was just left of the green on No. 10. He had a delicate chip over a bunker to the back pin. For a minute, it looked like his ball was going to land short and roll back into the bunker. Instead, it was perfect, leaving Badds with about an eight-footer for birdie, which he made.

Then, it got ugly for a few holes, where it appeared the guys were competing for who could stage the worst meltdown. Freddie and Baddeley both had trouble finding the fairway on No. 11 and No. 12. On the 12th things got shaky for Baddeley when he pushed his second shot from the left rough, which hit a tree and bounced into the junk in front of the green. With the pin in front and a false front on the green, Baddeley had to pitch it long. All things considered, he pulled off a decent shot, but still had a delicate chip that just rolled off the green. After almost chipping in, he missed a two-footer — and Baddeley is a great putter, but it’s amazing what nerves can do to the putting stroke (and the swing). He made the comeback for a double-bogey.

However, Badds didn’t let the mistake trigger an epic collapse. He made a huge left-to-right breaking downhill 25-footer for birdie on No. 13 to regain the momentum.

“I was surprised my six-iron went a little past the pin and I made probably the best putt of the week right there,” said Baddeley. “That really got me back on track.”

With the win, Baddeley earns a trip back to Augusta for The Masters.

“I feel like my game is a lot different now. These last few weeks I’ve been really working a lot on shot-shaping and around Augusta, you really need to shape your golf ball, hit fades and draws and highs and lows, so I’m excited to get back there.”

Speaking of shot-making, Baddeley showed his abilities on No. 17 after pulling a drive so far left it went past the trees and stopped in the fourth fairway. He hit a 50-yard slice around the trees to get the ball back in play.

The rest is history. Congrats, Badds.

(AP Photo/Reed Saxon)