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Sand wizard Baddeley closes in on Open exemption

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ORLANDO, Fla. – Aaron Baddeley has found 15 greenside bunkers through three rounds of the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He’s gotten up and down all but once.

Oh, and he’s holed three sand shots, two of them on Saturday.

“I brought a big shovel,” Baddeley quipped.

He may need to save it for Royal Portrush later this year.

The 37-year-old Aussie sits T-3 on the leaderboard entering the final round at Bay Hill thanks to a third-round, 3-under 69 that moved him to 7 under for the tournament, just two back of leader Matthew Fitzpatrick.

That said, Baddeley is one clear in another important race this week at Arnie’s Place.


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The API is making its debut in The Open Qualifying Series. The top three finishers in the top 10 and ties who are not already qualified will earn exemptions into the Open Championship in July.

If the tournament ended Saturday, Baddeley would earn one of those invites. Chris Kirk, Luke List and Charles Howell III are tied for sixth at 6 under. The Official World Golf Ranking is the tiebreaker.

“I’d forgotten about that,” Baddeley said of the potential Open exemption. “That’d be a bonus for sure.”

Baddeley earned his last Open start, at Royal Birkdale in 2017, via the Qualifying Series. He tied for fourth at the Australian Open and then went on to share 27th in Southport, England.

“To be able to plan ahead and know you can schedule that and prepare properly for it is ideal,” Baddeley said.

But first, Baddeley must put another strong round together at the API, where he owns two top-6 finishes but none since 2005. He is coming off a T-2 finish in Puerto Rico, his second top-4 on Tour this season.

“I'm close to hitting the ball really well,” Baddeley said. “I feel like I'm due for a good ball-hitting day.”

If not, he may need that shovel again.