Victorian Aaron Baddeley credits recent swing changes with the return to form which saw him finish just two shots off the pace at the Travelers Championship in Cromwell, Connecticut.
Baddeley had a chance to force a play-off when he stood on the 18th tee one shot behind eventual winner, American Kevin Streelman, but their finishes ended in wildly different results.
While the Australian dropped a shot with a bogey, Streelman fired his seventh birdie in a row, a remarkable run which gave him victory at 15 under par.
Spain’s Sergio Garcia and South Korean K.J.Choi tied for second at 14 under the card while Baddeley was alone in fourth a further shot back.
Marc Leishman from Warnambool was the next best placed Australian at 10 under while there were positive signs again for 43-year-old Stuart Appleby.
Appleby shot a sizzling last round 64 to claim a share of 18th along with compatriot Jason Day.
The tournament represented Baddeley’s highest finish since he was fourth at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in 2012.
He has not won for three years but believes he is now back on track after his swing deserted him.
"It feels like a long time ago, yet it doesn’t in the sense of the feeling of being in this position, doesn’t feel abnormal," a positive Baddeley said.
"Probably the hardest thing is just like last year was just not knowing what was wrong with my golf swing. I wasn’t hitting it very good and hitting it all over the place and not knowing. That was probably the hardest thing.
"In October I started working with Grant White and Chris Como, and those guys really were the first guys really to give me some true understanding what was wrong, why the ball wasn’t going straight," he said.
"And we started working and started making some changes and I feel like I’ve been close to playing really good for a while now. I’ve had glimpses of that."
Baddeley said the coaches discovered a technical flaw which he has been able to correct.
"The way my right arm was working…it was working sort of back and behind and sort of getting back and behind me.
"And then I’d say that my wrist angle through the ball. I never understood that, never looked for that before.
"I was sort of seeing what good players did, or good ball hitters, guys that hit straight like a lot of them. And you look at what I was doing, I was doing the opposite, so it started making sense of why the ball wasn’t going where I was wanting it to go.
"It’s been a steady progress of just improving like percent by percent day by day, and I feel like I’m getting really close to playing some really good golf."
Baddeley said that in the early years he had not enjoyed playing the TPC River Highlands layout but that had now changed.
"I think early on it wasn’t that great. Last year I missed the cut because I didn’t know where the ball was going, but I actually feel like I play pretty well here.
"I don’t think I’ve ever been quite up there, but I always feel like I’ve been around a decent spot. So I just like the golf course, I like the look of it. I have a good feel around here, like staying in downtown Hartford there where you can walk to dinner and stuff."
Meanwhile, Oates Vic Open winner Minjee Lee, the West Australian amateur, finished in a creditable tie for 22nd in the US Women’s Open at Pinehurst, North Carolina. Lee opened with a dazzling 69 in the company of the world’s best players but faded with a final round 76.
The much-hyped Michelle Wie claimed her first major at Pinehurst when she finished the only player under par. At two under the card, she beat fellow American Stacey Lewis by two shots.
Lee was 10 shots off the pace but only eight away from Lewis and two shots better than Australia’s multiple major winner Karrie Webb.
By: Robert Grant