Baddeley Back Home This Time as a Pro

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A host of past major champions will be trying to dethrone 19-year-old Aaron Baddeley at the Holden Australian Open at Kingston Heath Golf Club in Melbourne.
 
Baddeley won this prestigious event a year ago at Royal Sydney as an amateur, defeating the likes of Greg Norman and Colin Montgomerie. If he wants to repeat this year, and collect the $250,000 first-place check, he'll have to best six-time Australian Open champion Norman, Nick Faldo, Mark O'Meara, Wayne Grady, Craig Parry, Stuart Appleby, Robert Allenby, Adam Scott, Pierre Fulke and newly turned professional Matt Kuchar.
 
Kuchar, the 1997 U.S. Amateur champion, is making his pro debut this week; Baddeley did the same two weeks ago, tying for 31st at the VISA Taiheiyo Masters in Japan.
 
It's been one year since Baddeley captured the Stonehaven Trophy, though it may seem like a lifetime ago. Since gaining national notoriety, the teenager has played primarily on the U.S. PGA Tour. He began his American stint with rounds of 69-68 at the Honda Classic in March. He hasn't shot a sub-70 round on U.S. soil since.
 
Baddeley tied for 57th that week in Coral Springs, Fla.; it was the only cut he made in nine stateside starts on the 2000 PGA Tour, including the Masters and the U.S. Open.
 
'This year I had weeks where I hit the ball well and putted bad and then I'd have weeks where I putted good and hit the ball bad.so I couldn't put a week together,' said Baddeley.
 
'But it's all a learning experience, and I've learned so much and I'll be a better player and person for that.'
 
Wednesday, Baddeley played a practice round with fellow Australians Appleby and Allenby. Allenby, a two-time winner on the 2000 PGA Tour and the 1994 Australian Open champion, is the pre-tournament favorite with 8-1 odds. Odds-makers give Baddeley a 30-1 chance to repeat.
 
Regardless of what happens this week in his home country, Baddeley will be back in the U.S. next year, armed with seven sponsor's exemptions in which to gain his PGA Tour card.