Baddeley bounces back, beats Tiger & DJ

Aaron Baddeley of the International team plays his tee shot on the 15th hole during the Day Two Four-Ball matches of the 2011 Presidents Cup.

MELBOURNE, Australia – Aaron Baddeley said something interesting after having a big hand in a sloppy bogey-bogey finish on Day 1 that turned a 2-up lead into a tie that felt like a loss. He said something that you hear athletes say all the time but then wonder if they believe it or can back it up.

Distraught over his finish, Baddeley said this: “I’ll be able to bounce back tomorrow.”

You wondered. You wondered in part because he and partner Jason Day were up against Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson in a Day 2 four-ball match Friday. You wondered because he was so down the night before that International captain Greg Norman felt the need to pep-talk his fellow Australian twice soon after the collapse.

“Gut-wrenched,” Norman called Baddeley’s condition.

As it happened, Baddeley walked the walk after talking the talk.

He played so beautifully Friday, you’d have thought there was no heartache the day before. Almost single-handedly, he took down Woods-Johnson 1 up, soaked up some sweet redemption and gave a boost to a needy International team that split the six four-balls and trails 7-5 entering the weekend.

Day was so impressed, he said, “I felt like I was just watching him play the whole round. He played incredible golf.”

That he did, scars or not. The result had him glowing.

“To win today and to beat Tiger and Dustin, which is a tough pair to beat, it’s pretty special,” Baddeley said. “I was super disappointed yesterday because Jason played so well and I really feel like I let him down and the team down a little bit. So to be able to bounce back today and get out there on a tough day and do the job, it was good.”

In foursomes the day before, Baddeley missed a 10-foot putt at 17 and then popped up a 3-wood drive at 18 that looked like a half-shank and half-dropkick. It led to Day’s having to punch out and then a lost hole.

This time, Baddeley turned it on down the stretch in most-difficult conditions at Royal Melbourne: wind that routinely blew at 25 mph, ultra-firm greens that registered at least 14 on the Stimpmeter, a pace that turned some rounds into 6-hour slogs. Thirteen holes were won by par and two halved by bogeys in the six matches.

Baddeley’s match was all square at the turn after Woods won the fourth with a downhill 25-foot birdie putt and Day the ninth with a par save from a bunker. Then it was Baddeley’s turn to take over.

He holed a 5-foot par at 10 for a sand save and a halve. He sank a 9-footer at 11 for a birdie halve. After missing a 7-footer for birdie that would’ve won the 12th, he put his twosome 1-up for good with a 23-foot birdie putt at 13.

He wasn’t done. After a superb 25-yard bunker shot at the par-5 15th, he converted a 5-footer and matched Woods’ (two-putt) birdie. Johnson missed a 6-foot birdie putt that would’ve squared the match at 16, and Baddeley missed an 11-footer that would’ve clinched victory at 17.

Baddeley, though, closed matters at 18, two-putting from 46 feet, making a 3 1/2-footer for par.

“I was going over in my mind just to knock it in the middle, knock it in the middle, knock it in the middle,” Baddeley said.

Norman watched that success from the side of the green and beamed. “I’m proud he bounced back,” the Shark said. “It did him a world of good and the team a world of good.”

Day watched his partner excel and thought of one particular body part.

“Badds has got a lot of heart,” Day said. “He came back strong and played great, and it just shows how much heart he’s got.”

Though he played well in the trying conditions, Woods was saddled with a loss for the second consecutive day. He and Steve Stricker lost 7 and 6 in opening foursomes. That means Woods is the only one on the 12-man American team not to have scored at least a half-point.

“I hit the ball well all day,” Woods said. “I played well the last couple of days, but unfortunately I didn’t earn a point for the team.”

Like everyone else, Woods walked off talking about tough conditions that made getting approach shots - even those with short irons - hard to get close to the pins.

“Just hitting the green was a heck of an accomplishment,” he said. “Wedges weren’t holding, and you had to play the wind on putts.”

Woods and Johnson will get another try together Saturday morning in foursomes. They’ll meet Adam Scott and K.J. Choi, the duo that stomped Woods-Stricker on Day 1.

“It’s not many times (Woods) doesn’t win a point through two rounds,” U.S. captain Fred Couples said. “But we’re up by two points, and that’s all I care about.”

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