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Aaron Baddeley looking to step up

Feeling as if a weight had been lifted from his shoulders, Aaron Baddeley set his sights on capturing majors after claiming his PGA Tour breakthrough at the Heritage Classic in Hilton Head, South Carolina.

The 25-year-old Australian held off playing partner Jim Furyk in a thrilling last-day duel at the Harbour Town Golf Links on Sunday, a one-under-par 70 securing him a one-shot victory.

"I definitely feel that a little weight has been lifted," Baddeley told reporters after clinching his maiden PGA Tour title in his fourth full season on the world's most lucrative circuit.

"The next time I'm in that position, I'll know I've gone ahead and won before, so it's going to give me confidence when I'm back in that position.

"This is a stepping stone of the big picture, and I'm going to learn a lot from today.

"I learned from Jim today, watching him play. It's a step forward in the right direction, with the overall aim to win majors.

"I feel like I've been out here forever, and I'm only 25," added Baddeley, who joined the PGA Tour in 2003 after making his tour debut three years earlier.

"I've been playing PGA Tour events since I was 18 and it does feel like a long time, but it's definitely worth the wait."

Baddeley, who at 18 became the youngest player to win the Australian Open, has long been regarded as one of the brightest talents in the game.

He successfully defended his Australian Open crown in 2000, soon after turning professional, but failed to make an immediate impact on the PGA Tour.

As an amateur, he missed eight of nine cuts in 2000 and only two of nine the following season.

In 2002, he played just three events on the PGA Tour, having been relegated to the lesser Nationwide Tour where he finished 10th in the money list after securing three runner-up spots.

However, that year proved to be a big turning point for Baddeley, who by then had become a devout Christian.

"I was on the Nationwide Tour, not where I wanted to be," he said. "I wanted to be on the PGA Tour. But that was the best year of my life.

"In 2000, I got invited to the (U.S.) Masters, the U.S. Open, several tournaments. And in September of that year, I wanted to quit.

"Two years later, the difference was more or less my relationship with the Lord. My friends could see how excited and how much fun I was having, my demeanour.

"It's a big difference playing majors and wanting to quit the game, against playing on the Nationwide Tour and having the best year of your life."

Baddeley, whose third victory on the PGA Tour of Australasia came at the 2001 Greg Norman International, said it was difficult to compare Sunday's PGA Tour breakthrough with winning on home soil.

"This is different because it's in America and I'm a different player," he said. "I'm a different person now.

"This is different being this is special on its own."

Baddeley, who became the fourth Australian winner at Harbour Town after Graham Marsh (1977), Greg Norman (1988) and Peter Lonard (last year), felt his ball-striking during the week had paved the way for success at Harbour Town.

"Every time I stepped over the ball, I was expecting to hit it straight," he said. I was expecting to make a good shot, and I knew I could trust it.

"That made the difference, instead of being in the rough, trying to scramble. It's a lot harder to come from behind and hold the lead when you're doing that."



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