Date: November 20, 2007
Author:

Baddeley rekindles love for the Hunt

Aaron Baddeley used to know Huntingdale like the back of his hand, but he admits his local knowledge will only be of limited value in this week&aposs MasterCard Masters, given the changes the legendary course has undergone in recent times. As a teenager, Huntingdale was one of the many sand belt courses Baddeley used as his playground, developing the game which has made him one of the best golfers in the world. The 27-year-old can&apost get enough of playing on his favourite courses, but he knows that he will need every bit of his skill and patience in the testing conditions of this week&aposs event. “The course has changed so much. I&aposm learning the course again. The shapes of the holes are still there but a lot of trees have been taken out, the greens have changed. I guess the strategy will be different,” he said. “Say hole number seven. You would never hit a driver there. Now you can if you want because the penalty is not as bad as it was. It helps to have played the course but because it has changed so much, the local knowledge from ten years ago does not help a whole lot,” he said. Given his history with the course, Baddeley desperately wants to win this weekend&aposs event. He said looking over the lists of past winners has only fuelled his appetite to win at what he ranks as one of the world&aposs best golf courses. “On Thursday I spent a bit of time looking at the pictures of all the winners. Greg (Norman) won six of the first 12. It would be great, because I have not won here before. Being a member here and having played pennant for Huntingdale, it would be pretty special to wear the gold jacket on Sunday,” he said. Huntingdale has many defining characteristics, but the brutal north wind is the thing that has troubled most newcomers over the years. Even for a player who grew up on the course like Baddeley, it takes some adapting to. “It was good to play in the wind again. There is a different wind down here than in America. Here the wind is heavier. Over there it seems the ball goes through it easier. Here you have to allow more for the ball falling to the left or right. I take an extra club more than I would in America.” The 1999 and 2000 Australian Open winner has spent much of the last week playing on his favourite courses along the sand belt, taking a visiting friend on a tour of Royal Melbourne, Kingston Heath and Huntingdale. “We played Kingston Heath and Royal. On Thursday we came down and played this course to prepare and get ready for the week, see if there were any changes, get familiar with it again,” he said. “Kingston Heath is my favourite, hands down. I love Royal but to me I guess because I won there (at Kingston Heath) helps. I was talking with my mate John about how well they place the bunkers, how good the design is, and the shapes of the holes,” he said. He believes there&aposs no substitute for the classics, and that modern courses fail to replicate the greatness of the legendary sand-belt layouts. “They are like the older courses we play over there, like Augusta and some of the major courses we play. But for some reason, some of the newer courses we play aren&apost built with that style. It&aposs interesting, they have more dirt and more machinery yet they can&apost seem to build quality golf courses,” he said.