Forgotten Aussie winds back the clock

Valspar Championship - Round One
Aaron Baddeley is well placed after the opening round. Picture: Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

Aaron Baddeley has turned back the clock to put himself in contention at the $12m Valspar Championship in Florida, confident his game is “right about there” in his 510th event on the PGA Tour.

The now 43-year-old missed the cut at last week’s Players Championship but didn’t get away from the game, taking his family to TopGolf for a relaxed few swings as he celebrated his birthday last Sunday.

Enjoying a resurgence of sorts over the past 18 months, having jumped 600 places in the world rankings, the two-time Australian Open winner carded his first two eagles of 2024 in a four-under opening round of 67 at Palm Harbour in Florida.

It left him in a tie for sixth, three shots behind the leader Kevin Streelman, but with hopes of better to come, with the competitor inside him driven to win again.

“I feel a bit frustrated or disappointed when you don’t get in the mix, especially when you feel like the game’s sort of in a good spot,” said Baddeley, now ranked 232 in the world after being as low as 836 in 2022.

“You’re like, ‘Come on, I want to get in, get right in there’. I think that’s why I’m out here. I’m out here to … I want to have a chance to win.

“It feels like the game’s sort of right about there. Just need just a little something just to kick it over the edge. Hopefully, today’s round sort of will be a nice little start for that.”

Baddeley racked up his 500th PGA Tour event in 2023 while he was playing on a lifetime prizemoney exemption and played well enough to retain status for 2024.

The Players was his third missed cut in seven events, mixed with three top-30 finishes to begin the new season.