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Golf-Baddeley seals PGA Tour breakthrough at Heritage

By Staff
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MIAMI, Apr 17 (Reuters) Australia's Aaron Baddeley capped a special weekend by holding off Jim Furyk to win his maiden PGA Tour title by a shot at the Heritage Classic in Hilton Head, South Carolina.

Baddeley, who joined the PGA Tour in 2003, birdied two of the last five holes at the Harbour Town Golf Links for a one-under-par 70, finishing at 15-under 269.

The 25-year-old became the fourth Australian to triumph at the Heritage, following Graham Marsh (1977), Greg Norman (1988) and Peter Lonard (2005).

''To win is a relief, but it's also a dream, a goal that's been reached,'' a smiling Baddeley told reporters after slipping on the tartan jacket traditionally presented to champions at Harbour Town and receiving the winner's cheque for 954,000 dollars.

''I was very peaceful today. I knew I trusted my golf swing, and I think it showed. I hit some good shots at the right time.

''It's very satisfying and fantastic winning here,'' added the United States-born player, who had twice before finished second on the PGA Tour. ''And it's great to keep the trophy in Australia.

''Today was a great day, and it all started this morning with the Easter service so it's been a very special day for me, being a Christian.

''Plus my wedding anniversary yesterday, so this has really been an amazing week.'' Baddeley, guest speaker at the Easter sunrise service held beside the 18th green earlier in the day, celebrated his first wedding anniversary with his wife Richelle on Saturday night.

SUPERB APPROACH American Furyk, two strokes clear with seven holes to play, had a chance to force a playoff on the final hole after hitting a superb wedge approach to 10 feet but missed the birdie putt.

The 2003 U.S. Open champion, who lost ground with bogeys on the 12th and 17th, had to settle for a 71 and outright second place.

''I just needed some of those putts on the back nine to go in,'' said Furyk, who had been bidding for his 11th PGA Tour title. ''He knocked in more than I did.

''But I played well. I really don't have anything to hang my head about.'' Americans Vaughn Taylor (66) and Billy Mayfair (69) tied for third at 13 under, while world number five Ernie Els (71) fell back after a fast start into a share of seventh at 10 under.

After starting the day three strokes clear, Furyk and Baddeley traded birdies at the par-five second before the Australian benefited from a two-shot swing at the par-three fourth, Baddeley making birdie while Furyk bogeyed.

Both players birdied the par-five fifth before Baddeley dropped his first shot, overhitting the green at the par-three seventh and failing to get up and down from the back bunker.

The Australian also bogeyed the par-four eighth after pushing his drive under pine trees to the right.

INCHES SHORT Furyk, whose last PGA Tour victory came at the 2005 Western Open, fell inches short with his birdie putt at the same hole and the pair were once again tied for the lead.

However, the American rolled in a 45-footer for birdie at the par-four 10th to move one shot clear.

Although Baddeley slipped two behind after bogeying the par-four 11th after finding a greenside bunker with his approach, Furyk followed suit on 12 for his lead to be cut to one.

Baddeley collected his first birdie since the fifth hole by rolling in a 20-footer from just off the back of the green at the par-three 14th, regaining a share of the lead at 15 under.

A booming drive at the par-five 15th, followed by a bold six-iron approach from 225 yards, set up a two-putt birdie for the Australian and a one-shot lead.

Both players bogeyed the par-three 17th after failing to hold the green off the tee before Baddeley sealed victory with a scrambled par at the last.

REUTERS DKS PM0538

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