The missus entered the living room and pulled up short when she saw what was splashed across the television - plaid pants that fit as snugly as a pair of stove pipes on a figure that was taut and lean. What are you watching ' That 70s Show? she questioned.
It was, of course, that kid from Australia. Aaron Baddeley stunned just about everyone, and not just because of the plaid. He very nearly put a W on his resume, and this one was against the worlds best golfer at the moment ' Ernie Els. Only a missed three-foot putt on No. 17 separated Baddeley from the victory ceremony.
Maybe Baddeley is at last fulfilling the glittering future that was forecast for him when he won the 1999 Holden Australian Open as an 18-year-old, defeating among others Greg Norman and Colin Montgomery. He repeated the Australian Open championship the following year, winning the money title of the Australian tour as a 19-year-old. In 2001, he won another major international event, the Greg Norman Holden International.
Then, in rapid-fire order, Baddeley A) got his own website ' Badds.Com; B) came to the United States and set up housekeeping in the Phoenix area; and C) fired his coach. Venerable old Dale Lynch, who has tutored several Australian greats, was shown the door. David Leadbetter was the new hire, entrusted with the care and shotmaking of the young phenom. Baddeley, of course, promptly went out and fell flat on his face.
Thats not terribly unusual for a 20-year-old. But when Australias other gifted young pro, Adam Scott, went to the European Tour and promptly won twice, Baddeleys popularity sunk even further. Baddeley couldnt even make a cut on the Buy.Com Tour, much less win the Masters or U.S. Open.
He professed never to second-guess, though. He had come to America intent upon playing golf, and he didnt really care if he was playing in Americas minor leagues or major leagues. Eventually he got it turned around on the Buy.Com Tour, finishing second three times, third once and fourth once. The last three full-field events on the junior tour, he finished second, tied for second, and third. Not surprisingly, he advanced to the big tour at the end of the year, his reward for finishing in the Buy.Coms top 15.
This year, he has played one tournament with the afore-mentioned result. And suddenly, he is the young man on everyones lips as the next Tiger.
Lets see ' weve seen Scott and Justin Rose from the European Tour, both of whom was going to be the next Tiger. In America, weve got Charles Howell. And David Gossett. Before them there was (is) Sergio Garcia and Matt Kuchar. Youll have to consider all of them before you anoint anyone as the next Tiger.
But Baddeley looks suspiciously like he might be around for a while. He possesses a deadly short game, characterized by his putting stroke which is delivered at warp speed. Very simply, he stands behind the ball swinging the club through his practice. When he addresses the ball ' he strokes, no fiddely-fallying around. Not since John Daly at the 91 PGA has anything like Baddeleys putting been witnessed. Avert your eyes for a second and the next thing youll see is the ball tracking towards the hole.
Baddeley was the youngest at 15 years of age to make a cut in an Australasian PGA Tour event ' the Victorian Open. At 16, he was the youngest to win a scholarship to the Victorian Institute of Sport. At 17, he was the youngest to win ' in a 105-year history ' the Riverdale Cup (and that must be impressive!) And you already know that at 18 he was the youngest to won the Australian Open, at 19 the youngest to win the ANZ money title.
Hes a better golfer than I was at 19, Tiger said when Baddeley was still a teen-ager. He is better at his age that Jack Nicklaus was, said none other than Gary Player. But he is just human, we are led to believe, with standard number of hands, feet, eyes and toes.
From his website, we learn this about Baddeley: that one of his favorite CDs is Jimmy Eat World, a group that is totally foreign to an old fogey like me but apparently not to the hip generation; he lifts weights between three and five times a week and does cardio exercises from one to five times a week; and of his diet, he says he has been doing research, which has brought me to the conclusion that my metabolic type is protein. Mine might be Snickers, but then Im not sure exactly what the research is.
So Baddeley is the new thing. And he proved he can make some noise at the Sony. Is he the next Tiger? No, probably not. But except for a missed three-footer, he would have been the Sony champion.