Baird hopes for boring Sunday featuring his first TOUR triumph

November 09, 2013
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- Briny Baird has as many career starts on the PGA TOUR as there are days in a year. What he doesn’t have is a win.

Sunday, he’ll try to end that dubious streak (again) after earning a share of the lead with Chris Kirk at 10 under following a 3-under 67 Saturday at The McGladrey Classic.

Five times in Baird’s career he has finished second. The last of those came in 2011 at the Open, where he led by two strokes going into the final round before losing to Bryce Molder in an epic six-hole playoff.

“I answered a lot of questions to myself (at the Open), and that's more important than answering questions to other people,” Baird said. “So (Sunday) it's the same cliche, it's one shot at a time. It's boring, but that's kind of the way you do it, or at least that's the way I hope you do it.”

It won’t be easy.

There are 14 players within five shots of the lead, including three -- Kevin Stadler, Brian Gay and John Senden -- who are just one back.

But the first one never is easy, even when you've been around as long as the 41-year-old Baird.

“If I knew what to do (Sunday), I'd have won plenty of times,” he said. “I've always said Tiger Woods wasn't 80 (79) PGA TOUR wins physically better than me. There's a mental capacity that's in there. It's mostly mental I would say, actually.

“I know I can do it. Knowing you can do it and doing it are two different things.”

Baird isn’t alone in this pursuit here at Sea Island.

The top seven players on the leaderboard entering the final 18 holes have seven wins between them, but four of them belong to Gay, while Kirk, Senden and Scott Brown (two back) have the other two.

It’s a situation that isn’t all that unfamiliar to Kirk, a former Sea Island resident who still keeps a house here.

Two years ago when he won in Mississippi, the leaderboard was nearly as bunched.

“Not like you can just go out there and play conservative and try to hold on to your lead, and obviously that'll be the same way here,” Kirk said. “It's sort of anybody's game.”

At one point Saturday, it looked like Kirk might not be among that group.

Through his first 12 holes, he was 2 over -- despite nearly not missing a green (his only miss came when his ball landed on the fringe on No. 7).

But thankfully for Kirk no one had separated from the pack on a breezy but sunny afternoon on the Seaside Course, and he remained within a couple shots of the lead.

Kirk then made three straight birdies in the middle of his back nine, including one after his ball settled on the cart path on No. 14. He took two drops that rolled back down the slope and was allowed to place his ball on the slope. He hit a high-drawing 5-iron to within 12 feet and made the putt.

“I hit a really, really good shot, but it was probably a little bit more straightforward than it looked,” he said. “I couldn't actually see the flag, but it was pretty much in line with the Golf Channel tower back there, just left of it, and it was a pretty good number. I judged the wind pretty well there and made a good swing thankfully and rolled the putt in.”

Baird also finished strong, making birdie on each of his last three holes to play his way into the final pairing on Sunday.

His best shot, however, came on the par-4 11th hole.

After a bogey one hole earlier, Baird’s ball buried in a greenside bunker. He popped it out, though, and it settled 4 feet from the hole and he made the putt for par.

“It's been that kind of week,” he said. “Things like that have kind of gone my direction. I've hit good shots at the right time that keep a round going that can save a round and keeps the momentum going. It's amazing what that'll do for your psyche and stuff and how you'll stay upbeat.

“It's a great way to finish and it puts me in a better position going into (Sunday) than if I'd have just finished with pars. That would have made the work tomorrow considerably harder.”

And as he has seen for most of his career, winning is hard enough as it is.