Briny Baird: Proving to Himself That He Can Win

Briny Baird is the leading money winner on the PGA Tour of those players who haven’t won yet. Sunday at the McGladrey Classic in Sea Island, Georgia, he will get another chance to shake that label.

After shooting 7-under the first day and even par on a blustery Friday, he turned in a workman-like 3-under on Saturday to get to 10-under and tied for the lead with Chris Kirk going into Sunday. This is not the first time he’s been in this position. So he’s learned to read the tea leaves that say, “This might be your time.” 

I had a bad buried lie, and kind of with the way the week’s been going, things like the bad buried lie I ended up hitting it to four feet and making that putt and more times than not you’re probably not going to get that buried lie up‑and‑down given the situation with the downhill lie and everything.

And it’s been that kind of week.  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.  So it’s okay to make one bogey in a row, two bogeys in a row.  Once you start making three and four, it’s really difficult to pick yourself up.  So that’s kind of the way the week’s gone, outside of the first day when I played really well.  So the last two days have kind of gone like that.

And then he delved a little deeper into the psychology of keeping a round going and not letting it disappear down the rabbit hole.

Like I said, I think that a lot of it has to do with saving momentum.  Making the two bogeys in a row, sometimes instead of just hitting a fairway and just hitting a green and just two‑putting, you know, which is what you’d like to do after making a couple bogeys, I put myself in a very bad situation to make a third consecutive bogey which wasn’t going to kill my chances or anything.

But like I said, the mental psyche to suddenly get that up‑and‑down and to not go from I think I was at 7‑under at the time, not go from 7 to 6 kind of felt like I stole one.

That feeds the consciousness band width and allows you to stay focused.

And then it’s easy to stay focused, and you stay sharp.  Your senses stay really good and you’re aware of what’s going on a lot more.  Once you start making those bogeys, it’s amazing how bogeys lead to more bogeys, and it’s — that’s when it gets hard to pick yourself up and hard, you start doing some funny things, you start not reading the wind correctly and stuff like that.  So it was important and it was — it’s probably why I was able to stay in the round.

The other piece of wisdom that the most experienced Tour players learn over time is that you don’t have to hit it so perfectly to keep yourself in the game. Trying to hit it perfectly puts more pressure on your consciousness. Perfect shots come from relaxing into an effort to just hit it “good enough.” Without pressure, shot patterns narrow.

I didn’t hit every shot perfect, and that’s kind of a summation of the week.  You don’t have to hit it perfect, and my caddie said that on the last hole because I kind of fanned it a little bit and it landed on the front and that’s not really where I was trying to land it, and he said, oh, they’re not always going to be perfect.  And I said, that’s true.  It’s a great way to finish and [those three closing birdies in a row] put me in a better position going into tomorrow than if I’d have just finished with pars.  That would have made the work tomorrow considerably harder.

So you’re on the brink of your first win; how do you not let that get in the way of playing freely?

Oh, if I knew what to do tomorrow, shoot, I’d have won plenty of times.  I’ve always said Tiger Woods wasn’t 80 PGA Tour wins physically better than me.  There’s a mental capacity that’s in there.  It’s just not possible to be 80 PGA Tour wins better physically, so it’s obviously there’s some mental in there, more than some.  Most.  It’s mostly mental I would say, actually.

So you know, I need to — I know I can do it.  Knowing you can do it and doing it are two different things.  I proved a lot to myself at the Frys a couple years ago with the way I played.  I did the stuff that you need to do to win golf tournaments.

And then he made the point that in spite of not winning again in that situation, he learned a lot about himself trying. But more important, he learned that he’s the only one he has to prove anything to. When you know that you can play, you don’t have to prove it to anyone else. It’s the sign of an ego impervious to the judgements of others, the biggest drag on consciousness.

I didn’t win, so you can say obviously you didn’t do enough to win, but I answered a lot of questions to myself, and that’s more important than answering questions to other people.  So tomorrow 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.

After his double shoulder surgery in late 2012, he had no doubt that he would play golf again. He just wasn’t sure that he could retain that transformational edge, “you belong.”

Yeah, there were times where you wonder if that was it.  I never feared that I would not be able to play golf again.  There’s a fear of you lose a little bit of — there’s an intangible in there. There’s an intangible as to why certain guys play on the PGA Tour and other guys that are physically more gifted do not.  And there’s an intangible in there that can’t be measured by yards or anything like that.

The longer you sit, the more I think that intangible starts to become in question, whether you lose something, whether you forget something, stuff like that.  So yes, I definitely questioned that.

And now he has a chance to examine those questions yet again. There is no way to know how Sunday will turn out for him — somebody could go crazy and shoot a really low number. But it’s also possible that with everything he now knows about himself, that somebody could be him…and that it might not be necessary to go that low to win.

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