For a long time, Aaron Baddeley felt lost.
“Anyone can relate to what it is like when things aren’t going the way you want — it doesn’t matter whether it is golf or life in general — and you don’t know why,” Baddeley told The Weekend Australian.
“That’s the frustrating bit. I think if you understood why things weren’t going the right way, then it is easier to handle it. When you literally feel lost and don’t know what to do, that is the real difficult spot. I felt like I got to that point. I felt like ‘man, I have tried everything, why isn’t anything working’. The biggest thing was just that not knowing what was the issue.
“I do have a confidence in my ability to play the game. I would say like that never left — that I am going to get to where I want to go. That was always there but at that time it was just so frustrating … because I felt like it was in there and it felt like it was trapped, I couldn’t get it out.
“It was a weird feeling. My mind would see myself playing golf a certain way but I couldn’t play golf like I saw. Does that make sense? But then I started working with Scott (Hamilton) in July last year and he simplified it down to two or three keys.
“I kept doing that every day and I saw improvements coming day by day. My goal has always been to get my swing like my putting. With my putting, I have been a very good putter my whole career. There has always been a couple of keys I constantly work on and check. It is very, very simple. My swing was never like that. Finally, it is at that point now where I have a couple of keys I constantly work on. It’s very peaceful.”
Baddeley will return for the Australian Open at Royal Sydney next month with his career back on the rise. As the two-time Open champion endured the worst slump of his career — he won his first Stonehaven Cup as an amateur in 1999 and then repeated the feat the following year as a professional — his world ranking slipped into the 400s.
A player who once publicly dreamt of becoming world No 1 was on the fast-track to nowhere. It took Hamilton’s intervention to turn things around.
Baddeley had always been among the PGA Tour’s best putters. Even as he struggled, his short game was impeccable. Hamilton simplified his driving as well, urging Baddeley to concentrate on less rather than more.
The new philosophy paid off in July when he won the Barbasol Championship in a playoff over Korea’s Kim Siwoo.
“I asked him some questions,” Baddeley said. “I asked a few different people. I liked what Scott had to say so we started working together. I would say right now it is the best I have driven the ball consistently for quite a few months.
“I feel like my short game is as good as anybody. I am very excited with my game and where I am heading. I have learned a lot in the last couple of years and over the career.”
Baddeley’s desire to win a major remains as strong as ever. So too his belief that he can once again crack the world’s top 20 — he peaked at 16 in the world after finishing second at the Verizon Heritage in 2008. At the age of 35, there is still much he wants to achieve.
“Absolutely, that is no question, that is definitely the main goal — to win at least one major,” Baddeley said.
“I would like to win more than one like most guys. But you can’t win two until you win one. For me the immediate goal besides having another win is to get back into that top 50 in the world. That gets you into your majors and World Golf Championships. That is the immediate first goal and then from there you just set your goals on keep moving up that world ranking list to top 30, top 20, just moving up as high as I can.
“It’s only a few good weeks and I really feel like my game is in a real good order. I feel like my game is really right there. I feel like it is going to be a steady climb.
“With what I have learned this past year with my game, really making it quite simple where I am not searching for anything. I feel like it is going to stay simple and my game is going to be right there.
“I feel like I have a good idea of what I need to do to get back up to where my game can take me.”