Two-time Australian Open champion Aaron Baddeley concedes he may have “underachieved” as he reaches a career milestone this week when he lines up for his 500th PGA Tour event in California.
But the now 42-year-old, enjoying a career resurgence in 2023, is confident there’s plenty more good stuff to come as he becomes just the sixth Australian to reach the monster US PGA milestone, a list that doesn’t include the likes of Greg Norman and Adam Scott.
Despite racking up more than $36m in career earnings, with four titles in the US to go with his back-to-back Open titles, his first coming as an amateur in 1999, Baddeley, who last won in 2016, said he hadn’t met his own expectations after turning pro with much fanfare in 2000 as a 19-year-old.
But declaring he’s iron play has never been better than in 2023, and leaning on the “simplicity” of his repeatable swing and the enthusiasm for the game from his six kids, Baddeley said it had become easy to keep the “fires stoked” in his quest for that fifth PGA Tour win.
“I would say I feel like I have underachieved with what I expected, the goals that I have set,” he said from California on Wednesday.
“Life-wise, I feel like I have exceeded all my expectations with my family, kids, my wife. I couldn’t be more at peace and joyful off the golf course.
“And I still feel like I have a lot of my best years ahead of me. With where my game is at, the simplicity of it, I feel like I have goals I can still achieve and that’s not just a wishy thing, it’s right there, ready to go.
“I’ve never lost the passion, now even at 42, it’s never difficult for me to go out and practise and grind and try and get better. My boys love the game too, we spend a lot of time practising and playing with them at home. It’s pretty easy to keep the fire stoked.”
Baddeley is in a rare group too. Only 151 players in the history of the PGA Tour have made more than 500 starts, a testament to the Australian’s longevity across a career that has thrown up countless physical and mental challenges.
Having been as high as 16 on the world rankings, and as low as 836 as recently as 2022, Baddeley, playing on a past winner’s exemption, has climbed up to 225 with three top-10 finishes this year.
It has put him within reach of keeping playing rights for 2024, with another four events to play before he returns home for the first time since 2016 to play the Australian Open in Sydney.
He said it was “crazy” to think he’d played 500 events, more so given the likes of Norman and Scott haven’t achieved the same feat, and had the energy and desire to keep playing even as the next generation of players stake their claim on the most competitive tour in the world.
“No.1, the body feels great, I’m not battling any injuries or issues so you can still put in the work and the time to get better,” he said.
“I feel like the experience of what I have learned, knowing what to work on, how to approach a tournament, you can’t teach experience, and with the simplicity of the game and how consistent I am starting to hit the ball, it plays in to my strengths.
“I still feel like I have a lot of my best years ahead of me.”
Australians with 500 or more career PGA Tour starts
Originally published as Aaron Baddeley will play his 500th US PGA Tour event