Bobby Bai goes from one stroke out of PGA TOUR Monday qualifier playoff to a one-stroke lead at the Utah Championship presented by Zions Bank
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Written by Zach Dirlam @KornFerryTour
FARMINGTON, Utah – Monday qualifier regular Bobby Bai carded a career-low 9-under 62 and moved to 13-under par across his first two rounds, taking a one-stroke lead at the Utah Championship presented by Zions Bank. Bai, a native of Shantou, China who moved to the United States as a junior in high school, holds his first 36-hole lead in the 31st start of his rookie season on the Korn Ferry Tour.
Bai closed a 6-under 29 on the back nine with four consecutive birdies, turned to the front nine and two-putted for birdie at the par-5 second, and drained a 34-footer for eagle at the par-5 seventh for the outright lead. Bai’s 62 marked both his career-low round and career-low score to par, beating the 6-under 64 he shot at the 2021 Wichita Open Benefitting KU Wichita Pediatrics this past June.
“(I) was aggressive off the tee and had a lot of wedges in. I took my chances and hit them close,” Bai said. “My driver is pretty good off the tee. Wedges are getting better. These two days the wedges have been pretty good.”
Bai estimated he played 20 PGA TOUR Monday qualifiers before he earned co-medalist honors and a spot in the Barbasol Championship field last month. At this week’s Barracuda Championship Monday qualifier, the 23-year-old missed a playoff by one stroke; he boarded a flight to Utah that evening.
“Yeah. I’ve been trying Korn Ferry (Tour) Mondays and PGA (TOUR) Mondays since 2019 when I turned pro,” Bai said. “It’s been like this traveling for Mondays. You get used to it.”
Bai’s most remarkable Monday qualifier story involves the Utah Championship presented by Zions Bank. In 2019, Bai’s first professional season following a decorated collegiate career at University of Central Florida, he won his third start on PGA TOUR China. Following the win, Bai flew directly to Utah for the tournament’s Monday qualifier; he missed a playoff by one stroke and returned to the PGA TOUR China circuit a month later.
"I started to play pre-qualifiers since college as an amateur,” Bai told China Daily following his successful Monday qualification for the Barbasol Championship. “I also played a few Monday qualifiers when I traveled over from China, like arriving on site in the morning and then taking a two-hour nap in the men's locker room before teeing off.”
In 10 Korn Ferry Tour starts following a career-high solo sixth at the 2021 Huntsville Championship this past May, Bai missed five missed cuts and logged just one top-45. The recent slump dropped Bai to 128th in the 2020-21 Korn Ferry Tour points standings, leaving him well off the Korn Ferry Tour Finals bubble. Bai knows exactly what he needs to move into the top 75 over the next two weeks.
“I just need a win,” Bai said. “It doesn’t help making the cut, or top-10. I have to try to win it.”
Spoken like a golfer who’s played more than a couple Mondays.
Third-round pairings will run from 7:45 a.m. through 1:55 p.m. local time off the first tee.