Unfortunately for Baddeley, his game didn't. His day started badly and only got worse during a 10-over 80 that represented the worst final-round letdown by a contender since Jason Gore went from second place to 49th with an 84 at Pinehurst No. 2 in 2005.
Baddeley, normally an erratic driver but an excellent putter, went from a two-shot lead to a stroke behind with a triple bogey on the first hole after he inexplicably three-putted from 8 feet.
'I finally got it in the hole,' Baddeley said afterward, trying to find some humor in a round that was anything but pleasant.
Maybe it was playing with Woods. Maybe Baddeley looked around and realized where he was and what he was playing for, but he never displayed the form that led to 72-70-70 over his first three rounds.
'That 7 on No. 1 definitely hurt,' he said. 'But I looked at it and said, `This isn't over. I still have a chance.' When I walked off the green, I wasn't all that disappointed.'
Still, they don't refer to Oakmont as Chokemont for nothing, given how many others have gone through similar finishes there in majors.
Baddeley tried not to let the triple get to him, getting pars on the next five holes. But he missed one makable birdie putt after another, and a double-bogey 6 at the difficult 479-yard seventh effectively ended any chance at a comeback.
'If I make a few putts on the front nine ... ' he said. 'If I make that first putt on No. 1 for bogey. I three putt No. 4 for par and miss an 8-footer on the next and a 6-footer on the next, you make any of those putts, then, all of a sudden, who knows? I had no momentum with me at all.'
Any Baddeley fans tuning on TV after the first hole probably never realized he was playing with Woods. Baddeley was almost never shown again until No. 18, when Woods couldn't make a long birdie putt to tie Angel Cabrera and force a playoff.
'I knew I had to do something to fight back, but I never got it together,' Baddeley said.
Baddeley's 80 was the worst score Sunday by any of the top 50 finishers. He added five bogeys to go with the triple and the double, and had no birdies. Still, it beat his first two U.S. Open appearances in 2000 and 2004 when he missed the cut.
TGCPAGE NAME=Continued...>It wasn't a good day either for some non-Americans who were challenging going into the final round. Justin Rose and Paul Casey of England and Stephen Ames of Canada, three off the lead after the third round, shot identical 6-over 76s to tie for 10th.
Baddeley, 10th on the PGA Tour money list and a winner in Phoenix earlier this year, found it difficult to explain how his round got away from him. His preparation was the same and he didn't feel unusually nervous when he arrived at the course.
'Everything was the same as it's always been,' he said. 'I had a good night's sleep and I spent some quiet time with my family. Everything felt normal.'
Baddeley also felt a conversation with Jack Nicklaus several weeks ago at the Memorial helped him better prepare for the mental rigors that go with playing a major.
'I'm not going to say anything, but I'll take something from what he said (into the final round), absolutely,' the 26-year-old Baddeley said Saturday.
What will he take from this disappointment?
'I got a taste of it,' he said. 'I know what I need to do and I know I can compete in a major and have a chance to win. I got a taste and I'll be back.'
Ian Poulter, from England, commiserated with Baddeley after his 7-over 77 tied him for 36th.
'It's unbelievable. It's frightening,' Poulter said of Oakmont. 'It is that unbelievably hard. It's laughable.'