Baddeley sneaks past Couples into lead

LOS ANGELES — Fred Couples was starting to show his age Saturday at Riviera.

He hit a poor wedge, knocked a putt over the back of the green and turned a potential birdie into bogey on the 10th hole to slip three shots behind Aaron Baddeley in the Northern Trust Open. Then came a pounding rain as Couples approached the toughest stretch of the course, and the 51-year-old with an aching back braced for the worst.

"I was thinking, 'What am i going to shoot on the back nine, 40?'" Couples said. "You start playing like those guys did yesterday in that weather, anything would have happened."

Something did. The rain stopped. Couples played the rest of the way in 1-under par, keeping alive his hopes of another win at Riviera, and a chance to become the oldest PGA Tour winner in more than 35 years.

Even in good weather, it might not be easy.

Baddeley, whose career once held so much promise when he won the Australian Open as an 18-year-old amateur, is starting to hit his stride since returning to longtime swing coach Dale Lynch. He played 22 holes on Saturday in all kinds of weather and hit just about every shot where he was aiming, including a few putts.

He birdied the 18th in the morning chill to finish off a second-round 69, then ran off three straight birdies around the turn that led to a 4-under 67 and his first 36-hole lead on the PGA Tour in five years.

Baddeley was at 10-under 203, one shot clear of Couples and Kevin Na, who grew up in Southern California and attended his first PGA Tour event at Riviera in 1995 when he was an 11-year-old with big dreams. Na also shot a 67.

One shot behind was Vijay Singh, who turns 48 on Tuesday and is trying to climb out of the worst slump of his career.

ACE Group Classic

At Naples, Fla., Bernhard Langer shot a 6-under 66 and leads the ACE Group Classic by four strokes heading into the final round.

Langer matched the tournament's 36-hole record at 14-under 130. Mark O'Meara, Russ Cochran, Fred Funk and Mark Calcavecchia are tied for second.

New Zealand Women's Open

At Christchurch, New Zealand, Australia's Kristie Smith shot a 4-under 68 to overtake Italy's Giulia Sergas and win the New Zealand Women's Open.

Smith finished with a 72-hole total of 12-under-par 276 to claim her first title on the Ladies European Tour. Smith, a former Australian amateur champion, turned professional in 2009 and won her first title last year on the Australian LPGA Tour.

Sergas entered the final round with a four-stroke lead, but she had two bogeys and a triple bogey on her first three holes to finish with a 76.

Share This Story