February 20, 2011 | In: Articles

Narrow lead for Baddeley

Australian Aaron Baddeley charged into the lead with sizzling front nine and remains one clear going into the final round of the Northern Trust Open in Los Angeles.

The 29-year-old began the third round two behind leader Fred Couples but raced to the turn in 31 before adding a third birdie in succession at the short 10th.

He gave one back at the next but parred in for a 67 and a 10 under par total, one better than Couples and another American Kevin Na.

Fans’ favourite Couples, bidding for a first title in eight years, birdied the opening hole but was unable to make anything going out and he bogeyed the 10th to drop back to level for the day.

But he birdied the next and parred in for a round of 70 to give himself the chance of a third victory at Riviera, 19 years after his last success there.

“It was a tough day,” the 51-year-old said. “I hung in there. I didn’t hit the ball exceptionally well, but I hit it solid. I just didn’t make enough birdies.

“For me, experience helps. I know this course very well, and that’s a big key to me. But I don’t want to use the word loosely.

“Whatever the other guys do is their own deal. I like to watch people play. I’ve always kept an eye on what everyone is doing. But tomorrow I’m going to be playing this course as best I can.”

But it is Baddeley whose name adorns the top of the leaderboard and he is looking forward to the prospect of contending again, four years after his last success in Phoenix.

“Today was a good day,” he said. “Besides two tee shots, I played really well. I was very solid tee to green and really didn’t put myself in any bother.

“It’s been a little bit of time since I’ve been in this position, so I’m excited for the challenge. This definitely is what I play and practise for…to be in the lead and have a chance to win the golf tournament.”

Former world number one Vijay Singh returned to something like his very best with a round of 67 that leaves him just two off the lead.

The Fijian for once found some fluency on the greens, taking only 25 putts, to leave him in the perfect position to contend.

Short game

“I had one of the best putting rounds I’ve had for a long, long time,” he said after recording six birdies. I didn’t hit the ball like my score reflected, but I putted and scored really well, like I did yesterday.

“My game is coming along, but my short game and my putts are paying off. It’s nice to see my name on the leaderboard but I’d have more fun if I played a lot better.

“I’m not disappointed with the way I’m scoring but I’m disappointed with the way I’m hitting the ball. “I can hit it better than that.

“There are flashes of good shots, and I make the putts and I make birdies. But my scrambling game is just really incredible right now. That’s what I worked on a lot in the off-season, and it’s paying off. Maybe I should have worked on other things, too.”

American Ryan Moore and Australian John Senden are a further two strokes behind on six under, while any one of seven players – including England’s Justin Rose – could climb into contention on Sunday starting on five under.

Paul Casey slipped out of contention with a two-over-par 73 as did pre-tournament favourite Phil Mickelson.

Defnding champion Steve Stricker, who made the cut on the mark, fired a round of the day 65 to move through the field on three under par.

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