There’s an old saying that second place is just the first loser. In some cases though, is that really such a bad thing?
Of course, nobody wants to lose, especially on the PGA Tour. With fields of more than 130 players in any given tournament, winning is hard enough as it is. In the end, while titles are nice, trophies themselves don’t pay the bills. Money is the universal language, and if you play well enough, you can enjoy a long career even without a win.
Want proof? Look no further than the runner-up at this week’s McGladrey Classic, Briny Baird. Baird has played in a whopping 365 tournaments in his PGA Tour career, giving the 41-year-old the longest winless streak among any active Tour member. He turned pro in 1995, two years before Tiger Woods won his first Masters. Baird has made the trip to Augusta National only twice in his career, missing the cut in both 2004 and 2010.
With six runner-up finishes in his career, this most recent one has to hurt, considering he came into Sunday’s finale at Sea Island with a legitimate chance at victory. Still tied with Chris Kirk on the 18th hole, Baird hit a poor tee shot into a bunker, then sent his next shot into a water hazard. He recovered to make bogey, but still fell to Kirk by a single stroke.
Baird, though, recognizes how lucky he is to live this life. His 25-foot bogey putt to secure second place paid him $480,000 and earned him enough money to become fully exempt for the rest of the 2013-14 season. He missed all of last season after having surgery on both his shoulders, and was playing this year on a medical exemption.
In all, Baird has made just north of $13 million in his career, and that’s a testament to his resilience. It’s the type of career that any of us would love to have, so even though he fell a bit short, he’s still off to a great start in the new season. Even if he goes winless again in 2014, if he strings together a few more of these finishes, it could be a career year.