MADISON, Miss. (AP) — If every round went like Thursday at the Viking Classic for Briny Baird, he would be talking less about his unorthodox putting stroke and more about the good things in life.
Baird birdied four of his first five holes and hit 17 of 18 greens in a 9-under 63 that set the opening-round record at the Annandale Golf Club and gave him a two-stroke lead over 2001 champion Cameron Beckman.
“If I was always this successful putting I’d be talking about how many wins I have and how many cars I have,” Baird said with a laugh.
Three of Baird’s first four birdie putts were from 3 feet or less.
Defending champion D.J. Trahan and two others were three shots behind Baird.
Lightning caused a 2-hour, 41-minute delayed in the tournament formerly known as the Southern Bureau Farm Classic. Fifty-five golfers were left on the course when play was suspended by darkness at 6:46 p.m. and the first round was to continue at 7:45 a.m. Friday.
Baird, who is seeking his first win on the PGA Tour, is 106th on the money list with one top 10 finish, the AT&T Classic in May when he tied for ninth. He’s had four top 25 finishes this year but acknowledged he’s been better on Thursday and Friday than over the weekend.
“Made a lot of cuts and just haven’t done a lot with it,” said Baird, who has made 21 cuts in 26 tournaments this year. “It can be frustrating, but it’s also frustrating if you miss a lot of cuts. It’s such a humbling game. It can be such a frustrating game as well as rewarding at times.”
Baird essentially stands on one foot while putting, a setup he started using after working with his coach on drills to stop a head sway that had crept into his game and was knocking him off balance.
“That was seven years ago,” Baird said.
There was nothing unsteady about his play Thursday. He made four birdie putts from 15 feet or more to break the opening-round record of 64 held by five golfers.
Now the key is finding a way to remain consistent into the weekend.
“There’s times you’re playing and your score can be really good, but you’re just not comfortable with your play,” he said. “I had a couple of breaks today, but I feel real comfortable with the way I played, so hopefully that will carry over into the next three days.”
Trahan played a bogey-free round despite a painfully swollen sprained finger.
“For some guys it’s just about feel,” Trahan said. “For some reason you get on a golf course and every particular shot – tee ball or second shot – seems to fit your eye and for some reason you’re very comfortable. This is that kind of course for me.”
Trahan said he injured his right ring finger horsing around with friends at home about three weeks ago. It is still purple and swollen and Trahan cannot bend it as far as his other fingers.
“To be honest with you I would not be playing this week had I not been defending,” Trahan said. “I would’ve taken another week off. But with my results today, hopefully I’ll keep playing well. Maybe it will be a good week.”
Also at 66 were Steve Lowery and David Branshaw. Gavin Coles was four back at 5-under 67 with Michael Sim, who completed 10 holes Thursday.
Nine were tied at 4 under, including John Daly and Jason Schultz, who still needed to finish their first 18.
Other notables in the field were Jesper Parnevik and 2005 champion Heath Slocum, both at 2 under, and David Duval, who was at 72.
Duval, a former world No. 1, was making his first appearance on tour since February after taking a seven-month break to be with his wife during a difficult pregnancy.
“I feel like I’m closer to playing well than I am to playing poorly,” Duval said.