Date: November 22, 2007
Author: Bren O'Brien at Huntingdale

Baker celebrates his 21st at 40

Peter Baker fits the mould of the journeyman very well. At 40, the Englishman has seen much of what golf can throw at a professional, and it has been 13 long years since he last won on the European Tour, and 21 years since he first played at Huntingdale. One the eve of this week&aposs MasterCard Masters, where he was considered a 100-1 chance prior to tee off, he went out to dinner with Rory McIlroy and Oliver Fisher and stunned them by telling them he had played at the famous Melbourne course in this tournament before they were born. “If I told you I played here in 1986 would you believe me?” he asked. “It&aposs true I played at this tournament in 1986. When I told them (Fisher and McIlroy) they almost fell of the chair. It was before they were born,” he said. With such a body of experience at Huntingdale, it&aposs little wonder that he was able to come out and fire an opening round 68 and sit one shot behind first-round leader Robert Allenby. Finishing late in the afternoon, he did all his work on his way out, picking up five birdies and a bogey on his front nine. “I&aposm delighted with that. I wasn&apost sure what to expect. Coming down here, it&aposs always different playing golf around Melbourne. It&aposs harder and faster then what we&aposre used to in Europe,” he said. Baker said his best work was later in the round where he wasn&apost playing the best golf but was able to card nine consecutive pars on the back nine. “I thought they were very tough, even 15. I thought if I finished with four pars I would be delighted,” he said. “I was trying to hang on definitely. I did not play quite as well the last five or six holes. They were tough, but I managed to hang on and keep my score going.” This year he took the decision to go back to the secondary European Challenge Tour in a bid to rediscover the confidence he had in his 20s. In 1993 he appeared to have the golfing world at his feet after wins in the British and Scandinavian Masters. But a long drought ensued, broken only when he won two Challenge Tour events this year. “It was tough. You realise how spoilt you get, really on the tour with courtesy cars and playing for a lot of money. You get back on the Challenge Tour and you land in Milan and you have to hire a car, and it&aposs pitch black and you have to find where you are. It&aposs certainly a wake up call,” he said. His efforts this year in winning the Credit Suisse Challenge in Switzerland and the Open AGF in France have earned him his card for 2008 and given him a much-needed kickalong in his career. “Wherever you are, getting a win, you still have to finish it off and do the job, which I did twice. I think it did give me some confidence. I was not quite sure if I could still do it,” he said. He is hoping a strong showing at Huntingdale this week can lead to further success in the pre-Christmas period. “I thought if I could play a decent week, get some golf under my belt. I&aposm playing here, New Zealand and South Africa. I thought, worst case scenario, I&aposll get some practice in, I&aposll play some good courses and hope that I can keep it going for next year,” he said.