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CNN Today

Nineteen-Year-Old Golf Phenom Tees Off at Masters

Aired April 6, 2000 - 2:54 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: It's a little on the breezy side, maybe. But an absolutely gorgeous day down there in Augusta, Georgia, just down the road here, as the 64th Masters gets underway today.

DONNA KELLEY, CNN ANCHOR: A lot of eyes on Tiger Woods. Sports writers say that he is the most dominant favorite for the tournament since the heyday of Jack Nicklaus. Woods has finished either first or second in 10 of his last 11 tournaments, and golf experts say that recent changes in the fabled Augusta course seem to favor Tiger Woods' style. So we're going to quickly check the Master's leaderboard from our cnnsi.com site. It'll show you that Tom Lehman is 4 under par and Steve Jones and Dennis Paulson are tied in second place, and they are 2 under.

WATERS: We'll keep up to speed on that. With the 95 golfers who have teed off this morning, six are amateurs. And CNN's Jim Huber profiles one of them: a young man who may be golf's next boy wonder.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh yeah.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good hit.

JIM HUBER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He seems the true definition of a phenom, a young man so gifted he is playing in the Masters just six years after picking up a golf club for the very first time. Aaron Baddeley is just 19, American by birth, Australian by destination, but he soon will belong to the world.

AARON BADDELEY, AMATEUR GOLFER: A little 19-year-old from Australia is playing at Augusta, so like you -- so many people dream of this and I dream of it and how much you get doing it, so it's just phenomenal.

TIGER WOODS, PROFESSIONAL GOLFER: Aaron has a lot of game, hits the ball very well. I said this at Bay Hill when I was he asked, that he hit the ball better than I did at the same age, there's no doubt about it.

BADDELEY: Tiger is definitely the benchmark at the moment for golfing and I want to be better than the benchmark. He's a great player and he's playing great and I want to be better than that. HUBER: He's the first amateur given a special invitation here since 1976, attracting attention by upsetting the likes of Colin Montgomery and Greg Norman and winning the Australian Open last November. Norman has become a close friend. The two of them and Jack Nicklaus played a practice round at Augusta on Tuesday.

GREG NORMAN, PROFESSIONAL GOLFER: We kind of struck up a pretty good relationship in the fact that -- not like a father figure, but a respect -- fellow peer respect. One thing I admire about Aaron is he's not afraid to ask a question. He wants to know, he wants to learn, he wants to understand, and he's probably -- he reminds me a lot of myself.

BADDELEY: I can't speak kindly enough of Greg. On or off the golf course, or as a friend, he's a professional in everything that he does and he's a great role model for anyone, and it's just great -- and -- to have someone like that there -- and his family -- I can't speak high enough of Greg and his family.

HUBER: Though he seems destined for the stars, his young feet appear firmly planted in the turf.

RON BADDELEY, AARON'S FATHER: I've always played things down a little bit rather than build them up from a very early age from when he had won the club championship back at his home and before then, so we have always sat down, talked about things after every event and before and life in general, and we have a pretty good relationship with each other and as a family.

NORMAN: I am very high on him. I think he's got a great head on his shoulders. His attitude toward himself, I think, is very, very good. His attitude toward the game is very, very good. And his play ability at the game physically is very, very good. So he has it all in front of him.

HUBER: And that remarkable game gives Aaron Baddeley great confidence, he knows exactly what he wants.

BADDELEY: If your goal is just to make the cut and you make the cut, you've achieved your goal, so what's there to do on Saturday and Sunday? I want to play, take it one hole, one set at a time, one round at a time, and then to -- going into Sunday, if I'm in contention on the back nine, I want to win the golf tournament.

HUBER: Baddeley will play several more stops on the American tour this year, including the U.S. Open before sitting down next fall with his parents and his coach to decide his professional future. His fate, however, may have already been decided.

From the Masters in Augusta, I'm Jim Huber.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WATERS: And late word from Augusta is that young master Baddeley is plus 7 after 14 holes. I imagine there's some nerves associated with the first day of the Masters, but he's got another day to make the cut.

KELLEY: Right. Lots of talent and maybe getting a lot of experience now.

WATERS: We wish him well.

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