Beaufort News

Harbour Town Under: Aussies feel comfy at Sea Pines course

Jason Day of Australia works on the practice green Tuesday at Harbour Town Golf Links.
Jason Day of Australia works on the practice green Tuesday at Harbour Town Golf Links. Sarah Welliver -- The Island Packet

Half a world away from Australia, Aaron Baddeley feels a little part of home at Harbour Town Golf Links.

It's not just the close-knit atmosphere the Heritage fosters, with a big portion of Baddeley's family sharing a house in Sea Pines Resort, and it's more than just the fact Baddeley picked up his first PGA Tour win here in 2006.

It's the golf course, with it's tree-lined fairways and firm, fast (and tiny) greens, requiring a level of creativity rarely demanded by today's wide-open courses that invite a player to smash his driver and sort things out later.

For the contingent from Down Under, Harbour Town is reminiscent of their youth.

"It's a great golf course," said Jason Day, the highest-ranked of 11 Aussies in this week's field at No. 24 in the world. "There's a lot of old-school golf courses in Australia. ... All the royal golf courses back home are very, very similar to this course -- the old school, you have to position your ball, you have to draw it, fade it, you have to work your ball."

That familiarity has bred success for Australian golfers in recent years. Along with Baddeley, Peter Lonard won here in 2005, giving Aussies two of the past six Heritage titles.

And with Australians riding a wave of momentum after three Aussies finished in the top four at the Masters -- Day and Adam Scott tied for second, and Geoff Ogilvy tied for fourth -- and a large group of Australians here this week, there's a good chance of someone from Down Under working his way to the top of the leaderboard.

As a past champion here, Baddeley probably leads that list -- he also tied for 10th in 2007 and tied for second in 2008 -- but Day is right on his heels.

Although the course wouldn't seem to suit his game -- he ranks 14th on the PGA Tour in driving distance, a statistic that is neutralized at Harbour Town -- Day seemed to get comfortable here last year, closing with a 67 on Sunday to tie for 22nd in his second Heritage.

"As the years go on and I play this course a lot more, you just learn how to do things," Day said. "There's a few drives that I took where I should have hit 3-wood off the tee. As the years go on, you get smarter with age, I think."

If that's the case, Day still has a long way to go at age 23. He's young enough that even Baddeley, still considered a relative youngster at 30, didn't cross paths with Day coming up through the Australian golf circuit.

"I didn't know him at all growing up," Baddeley said. "On his ball, he's got the number 87, and I was like, 'Were you born that year?' Yeah."

Together, they are part of a strong core of Aussie golfers -- along with Scott, Ogilvy and Robert Allenby -- who hope to inspire yet another generation of players Down Under.

"I know growing up there were always guys you looked to like Greg Norman and Steve Elkington when he won the PGA (Championship)," Baddeley said. "You sort of need those guys to look up to, and hopefully us new guys who are out there now can do that for the guys back home."

AUSSIE INVASION

A look at the Australian golfers playing in this week's Heritage with their best finish at Harbour Town Golf Links:

Player Best Heritage finish

Stuart Appleby T-8th (2010)

Aaron Baddeley 1st (2006)

Steven Bowditch First Heritage

Greg Chalmers T-25th (2000)

Jason Day T-22nd (2010)

Steve Elkington T-36th (2007)

Nathan Green T-41st (2008)

Marc Leishman T-41st (2010)

Jarrod Lyle MC (2009)

Nick O'Hern T-8th (2010)

Michael Sim First Heritage

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