SYDNEY, Australia (AP) — Aaron Baddeley will be the favorite Thursday when he attempts to win his third Australian Open golf title and further his goal of surpassing Gary Player’s record of seven Open victories.
“This is definitely an event I focus on because I’ve made it known that I want to beat Gary Player’s record of seven, so I’ve got to get eight Australian Opens,” Baddeley said.
“I really focus on this one because it’s our national championship, which is always special, but then it would be nice to get a few Australian Opens early so then it gives me a little easier (task) for the next 20 years.”
The 26-year-old Australian isn’t eager to embrace favoritism for the $1.54 million tournament at The Australian Golf Club, a difficult 7,231-yard, par-72 course near Sydney.
“I think there’s probably quite a few favorites,” Baddeley said. “Geoff (Ogilvy) played great at Sun City, Pete (Lonard) is playing great. It’s pretty hard to pick a favorite because a lot of the Aussies are really playing well.”
Baddeley leads a strong Australian challenge at the Open, including defending champion John Senden, who held off 2006 U.S. Open champion Ogilvy to win last year’s tournament by one stroke.
Senden said he was excited about his title defense.
“My first time there was 1996, when Tiger Woods came out, but I remember making the cut and finishing off all right,” he said.
Australia’s Robert Allenby may also mount a strong challenge. Allenby led the recent Australian Masters during the third round but lost composure when he was taunted by raucous spectators.
“I’m here to win the tournament, I’m not here to run second and I’m not here to let anyone put me off,” Allenby said. “What happened at the Masters happened and they can do that all over again, I’ve learnt from the experience.”