Aaron BaddeleyKAPALUA, Hawaii _ Aaron Baddeley refuses to write himself off in the US PGA Tour season opener despite falling eight shots off the pace after round one.

Baddeley battled to a two-over par 75 in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions at the Plantation Course at Kapalua to be tied 23rd in a 27-man field, eight behind defending champion Jonathan Byrd.

Byrd, who shot a six-under-par 67, leads by one from Webb Simpson, Steve Stricker, Martin Laird and Michael Bradley.

But despite looking to have derailed his chances with back-to-back double bogeys on the third and fourth holes, Baddeley pointed to former US Open champion Graeme McDowell as proof he could still be a factor.

McDowell almost pulled off a famous victory last year with a final-round 62, falling just one shot shy of a play-off eventually won by Byrd.

“Anything can happen,” Baddeley said.

“I was surprised I made those mistakes because my game is in good order and it’s disappointing to start slow because even just a few under would be right in it but it’s early days.

“Graeme shot 11-under last year so it’s possible. No doubt you have to play well but while the scorecard doesn’t show it today I feel like I am playing well.”

Baddeley insisted he wouldn’t change his approach and get overly aggressive, claiming solid smart play would give him the best chance of making a positive move.

“You still have to play the golf course,” he said.

“This is a place where you can go low on a good day when the weather is calm and even on a day like today with a little wind you can shoot a good score as some of the guys showed.

“I don’t feel out of it yet, I just have to get some momentum and get rid of the mental errors.

“I can take some momentum from my late birdies and I’ll be out early tomorrow so it will be about getting off to a good start and building on it.”

Byrd is on track to continue a love affair defending champions have had in the event.

Gene Littler (1955-57) and Australian Stuart Appleby (2004-06) managed three successive victories.

There were also back-to-back victories for Jack Nicklaus (1963-64), Arnold Palmer (1965-66), Tom Watson (1979-80), Lanny Wadkins (1982-83) and Geoff Ogilvy (2009-10).

“I feel good around this course and feel like I know how to play it,” Byrd said.

“You just have to make smart decisions and you have to play more break than you think on most putts so experience helps.”

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