The PGA Championship

An Interview With: Briny Baird

Julius Mason: Briny Baird, ladies and gentlemen, at +1 after the third round of the 85th PGA Championship.

Briny, some opening thoughts. Let's go through your card and then we'll go to Q&A, please.

Briny Baird: Pretty good card today. Started off solid. Made birdies on No. 5, was my first birdie. Not really sure what No. 5 is. It's not really ringing a bell.

I hit it down the middle, hit it on the green about 15 feet, made the putt.

No. 9, I hit a drive right down the middle, not real solid but right down the middle, which is important on every hole but especially on 9. I hit a really good 7-iron right behind the pin to about 25 feet. Made that putt.

14, I hit driver into the front bunker of the green, that's a reachable hole. Hit a really good bunker shot out to about 15 feet, center-cut put. Nicely done.

16, hit a great drive. Only had 90 yards to the pin. Very mediocre lob-wedge to the front of the green and made about a 30 -, 35-foot putt. Really good putt there.

17 was my only bogey. Made a bad drive to the right. Made a good 5. Made a good bogey. I was pleased with it. Other than that, everything else is a par.

Q: Just talk about your score in relation to, is this one of your best rounds ever? It's not your lowest round but the course is set up very difficult. Put the score in perspective for us?

Briny Baird: Obviously I played very well today. I'm very pleased with the score. I don't rank it up there as one of the best rounds I've ever played. I'm not sure why I wouldn't, but I might in a couple days. For right now, I think I just played very solid, fairways, greens, as much as possible.

Definitely would be up there in the upper half, definitely.

Q: You were in contention in Westchester for two days, three days, just curious to know how that experience was beneficial at all, what you gleaned from that?

Briny Baird: Well, actually, I've been in contention since then several -- not last week, but the two weeks in a row leading up to this. So not only Westchester. I learned something from Westchester. I learned if you shoot 6-over on your last nine holes, that's not good.

The last couple of weeks leading up to this, I've played very well. I probably had a decent chance to win at the next Buick tournament where Jim Furyk won. At the Hartford I played well. I thought maybe I had a chance coming down the stretch, and did, and ended up losing by probably five or six shots, but it was actually close when I came into 18.

You know, it's about putting yourself in a position to win a golf tournament, and then seeing if either a break goes your way or you just play phenomenal golf on your last five or six holes. It can happen either way. You can play just okay golf coming down the stretch if you're in contention and some other guys might have a hiccup here or a hiccup there or a bad break. You just kind of take advantage of that.

So, I'm in position now. I don't know what the guys are going to do the rest of the day, but no matter what they do, I'm going to be in a good position.

Q: You were speaking up there about being mentally exhausted. This is your fourth week in a row. How grueling is it and how does that affect you out there?

Briny Baird: It does. You know, coming into today, I was a little worried that -- and I was worried coming into the entire week that I would not be mentally prepared to play a golf course that's this difficult and this demanding. And I was even more worried coming into today thinking, man, you know -- it's easy when you're tired to just say, you know, forget about it, I'm going home in a couple of days. I had some good tournaments; let's just go home and regroup after the next off-week.

You get out there, you get a hole under your belt. Right out of the gate I missed the fairway the first hole. I was pretty upset at myself for missing a fairway. It was like, "Come on, keep your head in the game."

So I think once you get out there, if you're playing well, I think it's easier to stay in it. It's when you're not, if I had gotten off to a bad start, I think that's where you've got to be real careful then, because mentally if you're not tough then, that's when bogeys lead to doubles and they can snowball.

Q: Did I hear you say outside that you came into today remarkably calm and if so, why would that be?

Briny Baird: I don't know. Through the entire round today, I felt great. Whoever I was talking to out there, I said, you know, it's very possible to have Saturday jitters. I've had them in the past. Not every time, but I don't know, today I felt great. I don't know if there's a reason for it.

But I think you feel more comfortable the more times you put yourself in a position to win a golf tournament. I think it just naturally becomes -- I don't want to say second nature, because it hasn't been that many times I've been through it. I know you can't win or lose a golf tournament on a Saturday -- you can lose it on a Saturday, but you can't win it on a Saturday. So why get yourself all worried, might be the attitude that I have now.

Q: How did you bogey 17?

Briny Baird: Well, I don't really think I bogeyed it. I think it's a par 5 to begin with. I think I made a nice solid par. I hit it right off the tee behind a tree, and actually hit a really good chip out which was tough to actually chip it out, believe it or not and still hit 6-iron to the green and 2-putted. It was pretty simple.

Q: Do you think that hole will be a big factor tomorrow in how this tournament is decided?

Briny Baird: Unless a guy has a six-shot lead, it's definitely going to be a big factor. 16, 15, it's amazing, because if you miss a fairway out there, it's really hard to make par.

Q: Allowing for the fact that it's Saturday, this leaderboard looks more like a Hartford or a Memphis leaderboard than it does a PGA Championship. Any reason why the working-class guys are there and the elites are not?

Briny Baird: I don't. I don't think there's any reason. I think it's just coincidence. If you reversed and it was all big names and I was the only no-name up there, you guys would be like, "Is there any reason why you're the only name?"

Guys that play well on certain weeks, there's no reason why Tiger Woods didn't play well today other than he didn't play well. It's not because the golf course doesn't suit his game like all of the other majors did when he won those.

So I think it's just a coincidence. Golf is at a great stage right now that you have a lot of great players that the average public haven't heard about. Or if they have, they don't expect them to play well on Saturdays and Sundays.

Q: When you were struggling -- I know you were not today -- do you ever look at the child on the bag and say, "It's not such a big deal," struggling on the golf course?

Briny Baird: Definitely. Definitely, it's eye-opening to think -- there was a quote in the paper today where I said, sometimes you feel like we get so wrapped up in our little world of golf and so wrapped up in our round, when things are going bad you feel like your world is just crumbling around you. Suddenly you look over and you're like, holy cow, this little girl is missing. There's a mom and dad that don't have their daughter or son.

It definitely puts things into perspective. Sometimes it works the other way; I look over, and it's kind of sad.

Q: So far as you can tell, does being in contention in a major feel any different than being in contention any other week?

Briny Baird: No. So far, no. There's more people out there watching this event than Thursday, Friday, Saturday. We get some really good crowds at other events, but other than that, right now, it's just another golf tournament and I'm not going to downplay it. It won't be just another golf tournament tomorrow. If I have a chance to win something down the stretch, it would be almost impossible to keep thoughts out of your head, like if I win this golf tournament. I've been out here long enough to know what comes with winning a major.

Q: How long have you been putting the missing child picture on your golf bag and has anything come of it, anything promising?

Briny Baird: It's been on there since Hilton Head. So I don't know how many events that is; 15, 18 events or so.

They did find the girl that was on the bag. It was completely unrelated to the golf bag but they did find the girl. It was encouraging to know that someone I carried for a week was found, even though it was completely unrelated to the golf bag.

Q: Could you just talk about the genesis of how -- do you have different people or different missing children on the bag every week, and how did it all start and come about?

Briny Baird: It came about, Canon are the people that came up with the idea. I've been with Canon since ' 99 . They were donating money to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which is the name of the center. So there was already a connection between the three of us. And they decided to put them all together and proposed the idea for me to have the Canon4Kids Program, and it was obviously a real easy for me to answer, whether I would do it; obviously I said yes. I think anybody with a heartbeat would have said yes to an idea like that, an idea involving little kids. So they proposed the idea.

I put the -- started in Hilton Head. I had a local boy at Hilton Head, and each week that I go, they FedEx me the pictures that fit in a sleeve on my golf bag. It's the same boy or same girl for the entire week, local to the area, within a 30-, 40-, 50-mile radius .

It's already predetermined for the entire year who is put on the golf bag. I have no say-so in who is on there or anything like that. To me, the neatest thing about the whole Canon4Kids Program is that it's $100 for every birdie, I make Canon will donate at the end of the year to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and $250 for every eagle.

I read in the paper today it's already up to about $32,000. That's always nice. It's always an extra incentive to play well and make more birdies. It should be for par this is week. They should donate an extra $50 every time I make a par this week.

Q: Wondering what your thoughts were when Ben Curtis won at Royal St. George's, and does that play into your mind come tomorrow?

Briny Baird: First thought was: I can't believe I don't know who Ben Curtis is, which I don't think I was alone in that. I have met Ben since then. I introduced myself to him in Flint at the Buick.

Yeah, like I said, golf is at a great stage right now. There's a lot of really, really good players, obviously great players. Ben Curtis is a great player, a guy who really didn't do much and suddenly started playing well and wins a major. It just shows the depth of the PGA TOUR right now, all of the tours in general. There's only so many spots for this many players, and it's nice to be able to still play solid rounds of golf.

Julius Mason: Thanks very much for coming down, Briny.

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