Baddeley's PGA charge fizzles at Bay Hill

Aaron Baddeley has come within a shot of the lead but a costly final-round 74 saw him drop to a share of 17th at the PGA Tour's Arnold Palmer Invitational.

11-Mar-2019 By Evin Priest, Australian Associated Press
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Aaron Baddeley admits the frustration of squandering a golden opportunity at the Arnold Palmer Invitational was washed away when his five kids greeted him near the 18th green at Florida's Bay Hill course.

It was a tough day at the office for their dad, who not only squandered a chance to claim his first PGA Tour win in three years but also an automatic exemption to this year's British Open - awarded to the top-three finishers not already exempt.

Baddeley came within a shot of the lead early in the final round but faded with a two-over-par 74 that dropped him to a share of 17th at five under, seven shots adrift of winner Francesco Molinari.

The Italian world No.7 drained a 44-foot birdie putt on the 18th at Bay Hill to shoot an eight-under-par 64 and none of the final groups could match his 12 under (276) total, with overnight leader Matthew Fitzpatrick (71) runner-up two shots behind.

Baddeley's wife Richelle and their five children flew to Orlando, from their Arizona home, earlier than their scheduled arrival for this week's Players Championship in the hopes of being present for a fifth career PGA Tour win for Baddeley.

But the 37-year-old Victorian said his disappointment did not last long when greeted by his family.

"Yeah it's pretty quick; it was just nice to have them fly in a bit earlier to watch me," Baddeley told AAP while juggling his 18-month-old Jaddex.

Baddeley jagged two early birdies and came within striking distance of the leaders before a bogey at the par-4 ninth started a poor stretch.

He carded bogeys at the 12th and 17th holes, but a double-bogey 6 at the 15th properly ruled him out.

"Today I felt I hit the ball better than the first three day but I hit a couple of bad shots at the wrong time and you can't do that at Bay Hill," Baddeley said.

However, he is confident a win is close, having tied second in his recent PGA Tour start at the Puerto Rico Open.

"I think so; I'm starting to putt really good again," Baddeley said.

He is also inspired by the chemistry of reuniting with caddie Pete Bender at Bay Hill - the 71-year-old who was on the bag for Australians Greg Norman (1986) and Ian Baker-Finch's (1991) British Open victories.

"I plan to have Pete on the bag all this year for sure," Baddeley said.

Meanwhile, Marc Leishman, the 2017 winner at Bay Hill, signed off with a 70 to finish tied for 23rd place at four under.


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