Pacific Palisades, CA (Sports Network) - Aaron Baddeley posted a four-under 67 on Saturday to move past 51-year-old Fred Couples and into the lead after the third round of the Northern Trust Open. Baddeley finished 54 holes at 10-under 203 at famed Riviera Country Club, and is one stroke clear of second-round leader Couples, who managed a one-under 70, and Kevin Na, who carded a 67.
Couples isn't the only old-timer in the mix. Vijay Singh, who will turn 48 next week, shot a four-under 67 and moved into fourth place at eight-under 205. "I don't know what to expect right now. I'm really fired up for tomorrow," said Singh, who hasn't won on tour in more than two years.
Couples hasn't won on the PGA Tour since Houston in 2003. He titled four times on the Champions Tour and, in fact, would have been the defending champion this week on that circuit, but his love of Riviera was too much to miss. Couples began the third round with a two-shot lead and promptly birdied the par-five first. He played solidly, but was only able to make pars until the turn.
It was just before the back where Baddeley took over first. Baddeley also birdied No. 1, but he drew a stroke closer thanks to a six-foot birdie putt at the par-three sixth. He tied Couples for the lead with an eight-foot birdie putt at the eighth and took over sole possession of first with a long birdie putt at No. 9.
The young Australian came up just short of the putting surface with his drive at the par-four 10th. Baddeley got up and down for his third birdie in a row and was two strokes ahead of Na and three in front of Couples, who bogeyed No. 10. Baddeley found trouble at the par-five 11th when he couldn't even get to the green in three. He knocked his fourth to seven feet, but missed the par save.
Baddeley was one in front of Na, but Couples inched closer. He birdied the par-five 11th to trail Baddeley by a stroke. And that's where the margin stayed. Baddeley parred out and will be in the best position to earn his third PGA Tour title. He hasn't won on tour in almost four years, but things could change on Sunday.
But he has to contend with a 51-year-old star. "Freddie won at Augusta before I started into the game," said the 29-year-old about the 1992 Masters champion. "I was more focused on Greg Norman." His focus will change come Sunday. Ryan Moore (70) and John Senden (71) are tied for fifth at minus-six, while Harrison Frazar, Jimmy Walker, Robert Allenby, Justin Rose, Stewart Cink, Spencer Levin and J.B. Holmes share seventh at five-under 208.
NOTES: Defending champion Steve Stricker moved into contention on Saturday with a six-under 65. He is tied for 18th at three-under par...Anthony Kim withdrew on Saturday due to illness...The second round was completed on Saturday after darkness stopped play on Friday...Rain fell at different times on Saturday, but it never stopped play.