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Briny Baird on the cusp of first PGA victory

Briny Baird has the outright lead after 54 holes for the first time in his career.

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Briny Baird has the outright lead after 54 holes for the first time in his career.

SAN MARTIN, Calif. — Briny Baird picked out his line and pulled off the shot, a driver that settled 15 feet from the cup and led to eagle on the 17th hole Saturday that staked him to a two-shot lead in the Open.

Despite a bogey from the hazard on the final hole at CordeValle, Baird had 7-under 64 to give himself a small cushion over Ernie Els and Paul Casey, two players who have a bit more experience winning.

That's not saying much: Baird has never won at all.

He has gone 347 tournaments over 12 years without hoisting a trophy on the PGA Tour. This is only the third time he has been atop the leaderboard going into the final round, the last occasion at Disney seven years ago. At 13-under 200 overall, he's the outright 54-hole leader for the first time in his career.

So how does Baird treat today at CordeValle?

"Whatever I thought about the other times, throw that out the window," Baird said. "At Disney, I just played so-so. Unless you have an eight-shot lead, so-so is not going to cut it. If I can feel (today) like I did (Saturday) … of course, if I knew how to do that, I'd be something."

Tiger Woods played steadily again for 3-under 68. It was the first time since his season-opening start at Torrey Pines that Woods posted consecutive rounds under 70. Even so, he was nine shots behind in a tie for 38th.

"It's getting better," said Woods, playing for the first time in seven weeks. "I'm improving day by day, which is good. Obviously, (today) I need to improve a lot and make putts and post a really low one."

CHAMPIONS: Brad Faxon moved into position for his first tour title, shooting 7-under 65 in windy conditions to take a one-stroke lead in the Insperity Championship at The Woodlands, Texas. Faxon, an eight-time winner on the PGA Tour, had a bogey-free round to reach 10-under 134.

LPGA: Soo-Jin Yang tied the course record as she took the lead of the Hana Bank Championship in Incheon, South Korea, one stroke ahead of world No. 1 Yani Tseng. Yang shot 65, tying the course mark set by Tseng a day earlier, for a total of 10-under 134. Seminole's Brittany Lincicome shot 68 to move into a tie for seventh at 5-under. Tampa resident Kristy McPherson shot 73 and is at 3-over.

Briny Baird on the cusp of first PGA victory 10/08/11 [Last modified: Saturday, October 8, 2011 9:46pm]
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