Golf

Gay, Baird lead McGladrey Classic

Brian Gay
Brian Gay plays the 18th hole during the first round of the McGladrey Classic.
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ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Georgia (AP)

Heavy fog allowed Brian Gay a quick nap, and he no longer felt so sluggish after travelling halfway around the world from Shanghai to Sea Island for the McGladrey Classic on Thursday.

Gay had enough energy to make eight birdies on his way to a 7-under 63, giving him a share of the lead with Briny Baird among early starters. The opening round could not be completed because of a fog delay lasting nearly two hours.

Once the sun burned off the fog, the Seaside course was a pushover with virtually no wind. George McNeill ran off five straight birdies and was 8 under with two holes remaining. Will MacKenzie reached 7 under through 16 holes until dropping three shots in two holes for a 66.

The morning fog off coastal waters could not have been better for Gay.

"I was super tired," he said.

Players were told the round would resume when the fog lifted. Gay didn't want to stand around on the range. He also wanted to stay loose. So he took a chance by going into the locker room at Sea Island, relaxed in a leather chair for a quick nap and then warmed up for the second time.

"I felt pretty good when I teed off," he said. "I felt like I had a lot more energy."

The McGladrey Classic is the third event in Gay's most unusual itinerary — four U.S. PGA Tour events in four weeks in four countries. He started two weeks ago in Malaysia, and then flew eight hours to Shanghai for the HSBC Champions. He would not have played this week except that it's only about three hours from his home in Orlando, Florida, and he loves the Seaside course. And then he'll finish out the autumn portion of the tour schedule next week in Mexico.

Scott Piercy and Boo Weekley also were in China last week, and each opened with a 67.

No one was as thrilled with the start as Baird, who is returning from surgery on both shoulders. Baird last played a tour event in 2012 when he started feeling pain in his left shoulder, and then his right shoulder. He tried a cortisone shot and rehab before he realized surgery would be required. He had the operations only a month apart, and then tried to return too soon.

Finally, he's healthy enough to swing a club and even lift his shoulders over his head. He would like to think he's strong enough to lift a trophy over his head, though it's something Baird has never experienced. This is 365th start on the tour, and he still hasn't won.

It bothers him, though not as much as people might think.

"I'd probably rather be the guy that's won the most money and not won than the guy who has won the least amount and won once," Baird said. "When you hear that catch-phrase, that does drive you a little nuts that we're only out here playing for trophies. I kind of cringe at that because that's not true. Otherwise, we'd just be donating our money to charity and living in huts. So it's not entirely true."

One aspect about that is true — Baird needs money to keep his full tour card. He is on a major medical exemption, meaning he needs $463,399 to reach a level that would allow him to keep his card for the rest of the season.

Webb Simpson, who won in Las Vegas last month for his first win this year, was at 65 along with Kevin Kisner, Kevin Chappell and Seung-yul Noh.

Tagged: Brian Gay, Briny Baird

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