Seventeen years ago Aaron Baddeley won an Australian Open and declared that he wanted to be No. 1 in the world. With all that water under the bridge and so many disappointments, his goals have not deviated.
"The same, absolutely,'' he told a reporter today when asked if his attitude had changed. "I feel like the experiences I've got now are really going to hold me in good stead with the direction I'm going. I feel like I'm driving the ball better than I ever have, even as a youngster. I definitely understand my game better, understand what I need to do to prepare for tournaments. I'm still learning about that but I have a better handle of that. I don't see any reason that my goals should change just because I've become a little bit older.''
It's a notion that would seem crazy to an outsider, since Baddeley has never lived up to the huge expectations he created that afternoon at Royal Sydney in 1999 when he won the Open as an amateur. Not even that bothers him.
"I know the guys I have working with me, they believe I can do that,'' he said. "That's probably the biggest thing. People can think 'hey that's a bit crazy' but honestly I think it's very attainable.''
He is 35 now and a father of three. He openly acknowledges that by his own standards, four wins in America is short of what he hoped for. Numerous changes of coach have not helped as he sought perfection, but he insists he would not rewrite his own history. "My story is what it is. I wouldn't change it. I'm just excited for where I'm at right now, the game that I've got right now and the direction that I'm going.''
Part of that direction is swing coach Scott Hamilton, the former Open Champion winner, who has kept his swing moves simple. Baddeley won the Barbasol Championship in America in July this year to guarantee his playing card for two years, and he will be one of the favorites for the Emirates Australian Open this week.
"The game feels great,'' he said. "I'm super-excited with where the game's at, the direction it's heading and then there's this week. I mean, Royal Sydney, there's a lot of great memories here.''
Walking up the 18th the other day, his mind turned back to that day when he held off Greg Norman and Colin Montgomerie, two of the world's best. "Seventeen years, it doesn't really feel that long,'' he said.
Baddeley tees off at 12.10 tomorrow with world No. 7 Adam Scott and Venezuela's Jhonattan Vegas.