Baddeley ends title drought with Riviera victory
California: Australian Aaron Baddeley ended a four-year title drought on the PGA Tour with a gritty two-shot victory at the Northern Trust Open.
On a glorious day of sunshine at Riviera Country Club, the 29-year-old held off a fast start by veteran crowd favourite Fred Couples and a mid-round charge by Vijay Singh with a two-under-par 69.
Baddeley, whose world ranking has plummeted to 224th while revamping his swing over the last two years, clinched his third title on the US circuit with a 12-under total of 272.
He coolly parred the last, after chipping to five feet from just off the right edge of the green, to seal a long-awaited victory, and his first since the 2007 Phoenix Open.
With his wife and two children watching him from behind the green, Baddeley raised both arms skywards before pumping his right fist in celebration.
"It`s definitely been a couple of long years, but it was worth every bit," the Australian told reporters after earning the winner`s cheque for USD 1.17 million and invitations to this year`s Masters and PGA Championship.
"The last couple years ... made it easier today just because of having to battle and having to grow into so much ... the character that was just built in me, I guess."
Fijian Singh fired a matching 69 to finish alone in second while 51-year-old Couples, who briefly led by a shot early in the final round, had to settle for a share of seventh at seven under after closing with a 73.
"I`m disappointed but Aaron played very, very well," said the silver-haired Couples, a double champion at Riviera who was seeking his first PGA Tour win since the 2003 Houston Open.
"If I could have just hit a couple more shots and finished even in third place, that would have been phenomenal. I`m pretty happy with the way I played, but I was trying to win."
South Korea-born American Kevin Na, seeking his first PGA Tour win to honour his father, who was diagnosed with leukaemia last year, carded a 71 to secure third place at nine-under.