Aaron Baddeley jumped for joy and jogged a lap of the 18th green after winning the US PGA Tour’s Barbasol Classic today.
A year of begging for starts will do that for you.
Baddeley, 35, won his fourth US PGA Tour title in Auburn, Alabama, today, but his first in more than five years to kick-start a career he feared had been near its end last year.
That it took four playoff holes to overcome Korean Si Woo Kim was of absolutely no consequence as the Victorian leapt for the sky as his 7m birdie putt fell.
Baddeley broke into a celebratory dance off the green, tossed his club in the air and flung his cap back onto the green – as much, he confirmed later, in relief as delight.
“I think you could tell by my reaction how much it meant to me,” he said after securing a two-year exemption on the main tour and a spot in next week’s US PGA Championship.
Both players parred the first three holes of the playoff, twice on 18 and the third on 17, with the Australian having a shot to win each time only to watch his ball slide narrowly by on each occasion.
“It's been a long time between drinks … I had some real struggles.
“It’s crazy sometimes … you think it’s not going to happen again … when you think about how difficult last year was,” a clearly emotional Baddeley said.
Since becoming a regular on the PGA Tour in 2003, the dual Emirates Australian Open champion had not missed the FedEx Cup playoffs until last year when his world ranking slumped to a year-end low of No.419.
“This year I’ve been playing on past champion status, asking for invites (and) I’ve never done that before … I probably wouldn’t be sitting here without those tournaments (who’ve helped me out),” he said after leaping up to 41st in this year’s FedEx Cup standings.
“It’s a relief to plan your schedule, but going forward the confidence you get is pretty exciting, I’m pretty pumped.”
Baddeley paid tribute to coach Scott Hamilton for finding a swing trigger a year ago last week that he’s progressively worked through as he fought for his career.
“Scott pointed out one main thing in my swing (that was) holding me back. My ball striking is now a lot more consistent and I have a lot more good days and my bad isn’t as bad.
“My confidence was way down last year, (even) thinking of what I can do outside golf (such as) green design. But I had a couple of top-10s early (this season) and my confidence has just been building.
“It’s just great.”
Baddeley finished with a 5-under 66 to match Kim at 18 under after the Korean bogeyed the last hole in regulation. Baddeley had been 11 strokes off the midway lead of Jhonattan Vegas.
The playoff meandered with few genuine chances until the fourth extra hole.
“I was just telling myself, `Let's end this right here. Come on’,”Baddeley said.
“The first couple of putts (in the playoff), I didn't quite swing it the way it needed to be swung. I just let it swing and it was going up over the hill and I was like, `Oh wait, this looks really good’.”
Former Auburn University player Michael Johnson finished a stroke back after a 65 in his first professional tournament, a few miles from his former campus.
Vegas opened the day with a three-stroke lead and five holes to go to complete the rain-delayed third round. He posted four bogeys and an eagle over the first nine holes, two days after setting the course record with a 60.
Baddeley's fellow Victorians Stuart Appleby fired a 69 to finish at 13 under and a tie for 11th and Jarrod Lyle a 71 to finish five under and in a tie for 62nd. The five other Aussies in the field missed the cut.