Here are highlights from third-round leader Aaron Baddeley's post-round interview:
USGA: We are now joined by Aaron Baddeley, Aaron with an even-par round of 70 today, 212, 2-over par for the championship. Your thoughts on having a two-stroke lead after three rounds of the U.S. Open.
AARON BADDELEY: It's, I mean, it's exciting you know. That's what I felt like could I do when I came here this week. I felt like I could come here -- I felt like my game was nice and I felt like I could compete this week.
Q. When you first turned pro, you were criticized a lot and came out and said, "I want to be the best player in the world." Do you think looking back on that, people, a, misunderstood what you were saying about Tiger; and second, do you think maybe you were a bit young and naive when you were saying that stuff. I remember Butch said, "Let's see your game improve" or something along those lines. Looking back at where you are now, do you find you've sort of answered the critics, if that what's it is?
AARON BADDELEY: I would say looking back, would have been a little bit naive; I was young. But I look back at that time, I was just speaking my heart. My whole life I've always been honest. I've always spoke whatever was in my heart, you know. I've always told you guys what my dreams were, my goals. I wasn't shy to do that. So when someone says something like that, you're always going to get criticized. But that doesn't bother me a whole lot to be honest. I guess now, I mean, I wouldn't say I'm answering my critics because I'm not playing golf to answer anyone. I'm playing golf because I love playing golf. I feel now my game is totally different. I feel like I'm a different person from back then. Yeah, I mean, it's night and day the difference between -- and also who I am as a person, as well.
Q. Tiger said after he finished that all of the players up on that leaderboard who have not won a major will be dealing with emotions tomorrow that they have never dealt with before. Two questions. Were you dealing at all with any of those emotions coming in, trying to finish off a good round when you had a three-shot lead, and how do you look forward to tomorrow and dealing with that again?
AARON BADDELEY: Coming in, I knew there was tough holes coming in. I mean, 15 is a tough, tough hole and so is 16. And then 18 is a tough hole. I mean, 17 can be a tough hole when you don't put it in the fairway. So I was really just trying to keep playing. I knew I was in the lead. So I was really just trying to focus on just not worrying about that and just trying to play golf. Tomorrow, I mean, obviously I'm going to deal with some emotions because I've never been in this position before. But I play golf, I've worked my whole life to be in this position so I'm going to embrace it. I'm going to enjoy it, and I feel like if I play well, if I play my game, I feel that there's a good chance that coming down the last hole if I've got the lead.
Q. You had to scramble quite a bit today, especially down the stretch, and one shot out of the bunker, the ball was up in the rough and was pretty miraculous shot. What are you taking out of today's round and digesting for tomorrow?
AARON BADDELEY: I honestly felt like I played well, like I hit a lot of good shots -- on 14, I think it was 14, I hit a really nice shot and thought it was perfect and was just sort of the back edge. There were a couple of those today where I thought I hit good shots and didn't turn out as well as I would have liked. But I was really happy to make par on 17, just hitting in that lie. When I saw that lie I wasn't worried about it. If I hit it in the fairway, I wouldn't be in that position. I was just like, let's get it up the left side and make a par. Tomorrow, out of this round, I feel like I played nice, so I feel very comfortable out there so I'm going to take that into tomorrow, just being comfortable on the course and being comfortable with my game.
Q. Robert and I were trying to recall, you played with Tiger a few times at Augusta, I guess this would be the first time on a Sunday in the last group, and I'm wondering, is it going to be hard for you to sort of stay and keep your mind in your own game, given that that guy is going to be right next to you the whole time, and he tends to generate an aura, other players have said.
AARON BADDELEY: Yeah, Tiger -- I like playing with Tiger, because Tiger is a great person to play with because he's very complimentary. When you hit a good shots, he'll say, "Good shot." Obviously he's a great competitor and loves competition. I'm very comfortable playing with Tiger in a major. When I see that pairing, I'm always pleased, because he's the best player in the world, and I like playing with the best players in the world; I always have done. When I was young, I remember asking Greg Norman for a practice round; I remember asking David Duval for practice rounds, because these guys were the best players in the world. I just enjoy playing with the guys who are the best at what they do.
Q. Take away the presence of Tiger, but there's another aspect of playing with him, which are the galleries, a lot of movement, huge media contingent, the potential for distractions taking place. When you've played with Tiger in the past, how much of a distraction or problem has that been? Have you ever been burned by that circumstance?
AARON BADDELEY: No, never had one issue to be honest. I think because the galleries are so big that you can't see anyone move. (Laughter) It's true. It's harder when there's four or five guys there because when one guy sort of moves his left arm, you can see it. But when you've got like 4,000 or 5,000, you can't really see anything; it's just a sea of people. So I haven't had any issues with it.
Q. A couple of weeks ago, Jack Nicklaus said he was very impressed that you came to him to ask to pick his brain a little bit. Would you talk about why you did that, what you got out of that and did he tell you anything that could help you tomorrow?
AARON BADDELEY: I spoke to Jack -- I was really keen to talk to Jack, because obviously he's the best player that's ever played the game, and everyone talked about how -- like his whole career, everyone talked about how well he thought around the golf course. Like that's one of the reasons why he won all of these tournaments and all of these majors because of how well he thought. So I tried to talk to him about how he prepared for tournaments, majors, and how he played his way around the course and things like that. He was great. I mean, I was amazed how he was like, "Ask me more, ask me more." Basic things, like, "Go out and try it, and if there's something else you want to talk about, just give me a call, no problems." He was great.
Q. Anything to help you tomorrow?
AARON BADDELEY: Tomorrow, yeah, absolutely. Just -- I'm not going to say anything, but I'll take something from what he said tomorrow, absolutely.
Q. That was at Memorial this year?
AARON BADDELEY: Yes.
Q. Can you take us through the maturation you referred to of when your swing and confidence kicked in, when you got better, why you're better and so forth?
AARON BADDELEY: I would say in October, November, 2005, I was out working with Andy Plummer and Mike Bennett, and ever since I started working with them, there's really been an upward curve of improvement of driving the ball in the fairway, hitting better iron shots. Yeah, I mean, that's just been a constant improvement, and I feel like every time I go to practice with them or even by myself, I know exactly what I need to work on. And I just feel like I'm going to keep improving because of what I'm working on.
Q. I was just wondering if you were observing leaderboards out there today and did you know Tiger was making a bit of a charge, and how did you react?
AARON BADDELEY: Yeah, I was definitely watching the whole day. I mean, from the -- I think from the second hole, I was looking at the leaderboard. I saw Tiger was 1- or 2-under early, so I mean, you've got to expect that. Tiger loves playing in majors and loves winning. So I was expecting Tiger to have a good day today.
Q. Johnny Miller famously said during commentary during the last round last year that Geoff Ogilvy could at least say he was leading the Australian Open. If you don't win tomorrow, is this some sort of consolation?
AARON BADDELEY: I can't think about that right now. I'm just worried about tonight. I'm worried about just doing better, a good session on the range tonight, a little bit of work and relaxing with Richelle and coming out tomorrow and playing as good as I can.
Q. Back when you were a teenager and won the Australian Open, there was a tremendous amount of hype and a lot of people talking about the next great player, and you have the commercials and all of those things. Does that seem like a long time ago, and how do you look back at that time of your life?
AARON BADDELEY: That does seem like a long time ago to be honest. What was it, eight years ago? I just look back at that time as like after the Australian Open, I look more at that time of when I struggled and was missing cuts, wasn't playing good. I look at that time as probably the most important time of my life, those two or three years -- probably three or four years when I struggled. Because if I don't go through that, if I didn't struggle as much as I did -- if I had just struggled a little bit, it would be different. But to struggle as much as I did, that was the most important part of my life. No. 1, my relationship with the Lord grew like beyond anything what I could imagine, which is the most important thing in my life; who I am as a person, my character, everything has developed and become stronger. I feel a lot wiser now because of all that and things I did wrong. And then I look back at that time, as well, and just say, if I didn't go through that, I wouldn't be sitting here today. I definitely wouldn't be sitting here right here right now leading a U.S. Open, if I don't go through that time of my life.
Q. Sunday is a long day for leaders. It takes a while for the leaders to get out; how do you make the day go by? Do you go to services or do you have a Bible study?
AARON BADDELEY: This morning actually went by really quick. I slept in a little bit until like 8:30, 9:00, got up. Every morning I always like study my Bible and wrote down some stuff and pray and stuff. So I'm just going to do that tomorrow like normal and have breakfast with Richelle, hang out. Probably be 11:00, 12:00 by then and get ready to come out here, come out here two hours before and do my regular routine.
Q. What are your keys to putting and what are the special challenges of these greens at Oakmont?
AARON BADDELEY: My keys to my putting is just I keep it really simple. I always have my little checks of making sure the ball is in the right position, making sure the putter face is square. That's really all I do with my putting. And I just look and react, like if you watch me putt, I'm pretty quick over the ball. That's something I've done since I was like 16. And then the challenges to these greens, best example is the 10th hole today. I was six feet from the cup and I had at least a three to four feet break in the putt. It came in really backwards. That's how challenging these greens are, because you've got to just hit the putt out and led it feed in there. Even like the last hole, the putt was so quick and so slopey, you had to just feed it out to the left and let it fall in there. There's no bashing the ball in the hole or anything like that. So you've really got to be careful with your speed and your line.
Q. Do you think the harder the greens, the better for you?
AARON BADDELEY: Yeah, I enjoy when you need to -- when you have to have feel; when you've got to get on the green and be like, okay, it looks like two cups out on the right, but you have to play a foot, foot and a half and sort of feed it in there.
Q. What prompted you to wait behind the 18th green at Augusta for Zach? Is that from Wednesday nights and those type of things, and would this not be a good time to remind people out there because you're playing with you-know-who that you were actually born in the U.S.?
AARON BADDELEY: Yes, I was actually born in the U.S. I've got dual citizenship. With Zach, Zach is a fellow brother in Christ, and I know it's very special to -- it's a special time in his life. I mean, he just won the Masters. We were at home watching the coverage, and when he birdied -- I think when he birdied 16, we were like five or ten minutes from the course. We drove straight back to make sure we were there on the 18th.
Q. You were at the house?
AARON BADDELEY: We were at the house just watching the coverage and we came back to watch him play the last couple of holes back at the course. Yeah, I mean, I wanted to be there because Zach is just a great guy and great friend and just wanted to be there to support him for that special time. It was just awesome. Richelle wanted to go back, as well. She was like, we're both like, "Do you want to go back?" "Yeah, let's go back right now." She's friends with Kim, as well. Both Richelle and I definitely wanted to be there.
Q. Your Web site has daily scriptural readings and the ones for tomorrow don't seem to be particularly pertinent to golf or to competition. Is there one that you key on when you're in a situation like that, anything, favorite verse?
AARON BADDELEY: I always use one verse, I used it at Hilton Head, it's the 2 Timothy 1:7, it says, "For God has give us a spirit of fear but power of love and a sound mind." I constantly quote that verse to myself. But I just enjoy reading the Bible. This morning I was just reading and writing and praying, and that's what is most important to me, every morning.
Q. Did you as a kid that you would ever be sitting here? And then second part of the question, when you were sitting in Scottsdale and you didn't have a Tour to play on, and it looked pretty grim for you, did you ever lose your faith; did you ever think that, you know, you're not going to make it as a professional golfer?
AARON BADDELEY: What is it, September 2000? I felt like that -- that I was going to quit. I told my dad I was quitting and walking away from the game because it was too hard. So, yeah, I definitely had doubts for sure. What was the first part of the question?
Q. When you were a kid, did you think to yourself that you were going to -- did you dream about ever winning?
AARON BADDELEY: Absolutely. That was something that was very vivid with my dreams, really, to be honest, seeing myself in that position. I mean, I've watched so much golf, I can tell you about what people wore, what they shot, everything. I just loved golf. I loved watching the majors; I taped them and watched them over and over; I can recite commentary from when Nick Price won. I saw myself in that position, absolutely.
Q. What did your dad say to talk you out of it, assuming it was him and not your own decision?
AARON BADDELEY: Dad said, "Fine, if that's what you want to do. If you want to walk away, that's absolutely your decision." I spoke to my dad and Greg's dad and they both said, "If you want, that's fine, but what's in your heart, what do you want to do and what are your dreams." And I started writing some stuff down, and I wanted to play golf. That's what I wanted to do. That's what was deep in my heart and that's what I got back to, like what was deep down in my heart, not just the frustration and annoyances.
Q. You're in the same position Appleby was at Augusta, final group with Tiger. We know who won there. Can you talk about scoreboard watching; could it be a mistake not to do some scoreboard watching tomorrow and just ignore the rest of the field and stay focused on just the two of you?
AARON BADDELEY: I think so for sure, absolutely. Because it's not like Tiger and I are seven shots ahead of the rest of the field, you know. It's like it's me and Tiger and there's a few other guys at 5-over. I think it would be a mistake not to look at the boards. It's all fun when you see your friends up on the board playing well. I always look and enjoy it and play my game. Like I said, I can only control what I do tomorrow.