Mixture of Emotions Make For Compelling Aussie PGA
Baddeley is coming off a successful title defense at last week's Australian Open, his first victory as a professional. Upon winning last year's Aussie Open, the then-18-year-old amateur tied for 19th at the following week's ANZ Players Championship, and then decided to skip the Australian PGA.
'Last year I was so run down mentally from the overflow of the Australian Open,' said Baddeley. 'We didn't quite realize how big it actually was winning the Australian Open last year and how much of an effect it would have, how much time it would take to do all the media, and other commitments like that.
'This year we knew what to expect. We prepared mentally, I feel fine and I'm looking forward to getting out there this week.'
Baddeley will play alongside fellow teenager Adam Scott and 23-year-old Brett Rumford over the first two rounds. Rumford followed in his compatriot's footsteps last year by winning the ANZ Players Championship as an amateur, the week after Baddeley captured the Australian Open.
'Same time this year, but a different event,' said Rumford, who recently gained his 2001 European Tour card. 'I can't reflect on last year. This year is just refocusing on this week and playing. I'm just more concerned about getting over my jetlag at this stage and freshening up for the event and to play well.'
Many of Australia's best are in attendance this week. Two-time Australian PGA champion Greg Norman, 1992 champion Craig Parry, '93 winner Baker-Finch and Robert Allenby have made the trip to Royal Queensland. One notable absentee is Stuart Appleby.
Appleby withdrew from this week's event Sunday night in order to play in the Nedbank Sun City Challenge in South Africa, which offers $2 million to the winner. Norman, whose Great White Shark Enterprises helped boost the Australian PGA Championship's total purse to $1 million, was not pleased by Appleby's sudden withdrawal.
'If you decide a month ago to play South Africa and not the PGA, that is your decision,' Norman said. 'But if you decide to play the PGA and then change, that's a different story..I have a problem when you commit and don't honor that commitment.
'My word is my bond. If I can't keep it, I make sure I go through the process of telling the individual.'
While Appleby's out, Baker-Finch is in. The 40-year-old television commentator is making his first start since a self-imposed retirement in 1997. Baker-Finch won the 1991 British Open, but quit the game following a series of missed cuts and withdrawals. The straw that broke the proverbial camel's back was a first-round 92 at the '97 British Open.
'I work 26 weeks of the year for television - I can not play as well,' said Baker-Finch, who played as a marker with American Scott Verplank in the final round of the American Express Championship three weeks ago. 'I'm not giving up my day job, let me put it that way. I'm here to have fun.'
Joining the strong home contingency are a handful of American players, including Ted Tryba, Chris Riley, Kevin Wentworth and Matt Kuchar, who is making his second start as a professional.
New Zealander Greg Turner will not defend the title he won a year ago. Turner opted to skip the event in preparation for next week's WGC World Cup in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
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The Englishman, who bogeyed his last hole, had a two-round total of 13-under 131.
Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who completed his 64 on Friday, was in second place.