Baker scores on golf tour


The big challenge came on a windy Friday when the atmospheric conditions conspired to try and keep Chris Baker from making the cut.

High winds played havoc at the 7,431-yard TPC Twin Cities course at the 3M Open.

“It was a tough day,” Baker said.

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No one could blame him if he groaned when he hit a shot into a water hazard on the 18th hole, and the applause would have been loud when he turned the unexpected into a birdie.

Witnesses were sparse, though, for the bad luck and the good play because there have been no spectators on the PGA Tour this summer.

“It got me to the weekend,” Baker said.

The 34-year-old Brownstown native pulled off a little bit of magic last weekend to make the cut and finish strong at the Par 71 event with his lowest four-round score of 2020. After the close call closed him after two rounds at 68-72 to advance, Baker played stronger golf Saturday and Sunday.

His 69-66 gave him a four-round 275 and a tie for 41st place among the 68 golfers who made it through to the conclusion. His prize money was $24,750.

“I played well all weekend,” Baker said.

Success at golf is all about high-level consistency. So many little things can go wrong, a twist of the wrist, a drive that is slightly off center, a putt that is a tiny bit too hard. It is a never-ending battle to play well all of the time and to play mistake-free.

The 3M was a $6.4 million event won by Michael Thompson.

The morning after, Baker was on the road again, traveling to the border of Lake Tahoe, Nevada, and Truckee, California, for this weekend’s Barracuda Championship played at the Tahoe Mountain Club’s Old Greenwood Course.

As Baker tries to build upon his season earnings, now at $183,622, he is a frequent traveler, going where the matches are played. He has had stops in Detroit, Puerto Rico, Hawaii and Florida this year. From one city to the next, Baker is on the go, seeking to improve on his No. 191 ranking in the money standings.

“It’s every week,” Baker said.

Sometimes, he isn’t sure where his next tournament will be. He said going to Blaine, Minnesota, for the 3M was “kind of a last-minute deal.” And he said he is still waiting to hear if he will be in the field in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Baker was pleased with his Minnesota showing.

“I’ve been playing some good golf,” he said.

It is hard to describe a 66, 5 under par, in any other manner.

“My golf has been really good lately. I am very close to being very successful,” he said.

The nature of the sport means it is always tough to be satisfied with an entire tournament or a given round because golfers seem to be the leaders among athletes who second-guess themselves with if-onlys.

“Golf is a sport where it’s a difficult game and you’re always trying to get better,” Baker said.

Golf has fared better than some other sports in organizing and carrying out a season since the almost total nationwide March shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As other sports have done, golf revived with protocols in place, taking exceptional care to limit contact between players and to keep spectators away from the courses.

Baker has not seen a fan all year. Originally, the PGA started conducting tournaments without spectators and said it was going to re-evaluate later to see if that could change. However, now that scenario is not going to happen during the 2020 campaign.

“They called off all spectators for the rest of the season,” Baker said.

He has mixed emotions about playing major events without fans, being understanding of the health threat to players but also noting something flavorful is missing when the tournaments are played in isolation. Pro golf, of course, comes with its own social distancing built into the game anyway.

“They’re doing a good job with it,” Baker said of the supervisors of the sport. “We have had very little in the way of issues. In golf, we’re not right up on each other and we’re outdoors. It’s good for people’s peace of mind.”

Spectators are supposed to stay quiet when golfers hit their tee shots and putts, but they do erupt with noise when they see something they like as they follow around their favorite players and the stars of the tour.

Baker was in a group at Torrey Pines Golf Course in California last year with perennial champ Tiger Woods and said nothing compares to the mobs of curious fans who tag along. Woods attracts the most fans and the most exuberant, and that makes for a different experience.

“It’s a bummer for the tour,” Baker said of not having fans. “I hope we can find a way to get spectators back.”

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