The Australian rolled in his fourth birdie putt of the day at the 15th to reach three under par despite the blustery conditions, and a three at the driveable 336-yard 17th would have given him a share of the lead.
Baddeley, without a win since the Northern Trust Open in 2011, was in between clubs on the tee and opted to hit a fade with his driver. But he watched in frustration as he “double-crossed” himself and pulled his ball into the trees on the left.
He did manage to find his ball, but his chances of getting it back onto short grass were extremely slim so he decided to declare an unplayable lie and head back to the tee.
Baddeley stuck with the driver and choked down on it, hitting an arrow-straight drive and walking straight after it before jumping for joy as the crowd around the green erupted as his ball disappeared into the hole.
“I was thinking of gripping a 3-wood or hit a cut driver, and I don’t know, I went with the cut driver and hit a pulled draw in the middle of the trees,” said Baddeley after signing for a four-under 68 – one behind Charley Hoffman.
“I just thought I’d hit the next one straight and so I hit it and started walking and then heard the crowd going nuts. I was like, wait, I just made birdie.
“I played really nice for the majority of the day. I just said to myself it was the wrong shot. Hit a straight one. It was straight downwind, get it going straight, it will go straight. So I hit the second one and said, man, why didn’t I do that the first time? And it rolls up and goes in.”
Baddeley also admitted he was fortunate to be among the later starters on Thursday, with scores soaring early on as players battled winds gusting close to 40mph.
“I saw the forecast, it was going to die down just a little bit,” Baddeley added. “I knew it was going to be blowing. So even going to bed last night I already had the mindset. I just had to be patient, whether you got off to a good start or a bad start. So I think days like today the mindset is the most important.”