Bae opens meaningful season with win
October 12, 2014
By Sean Martin, PGATOUR.COM
- Sang-Moon Bae won the Frys.com Open, the first event of the 2014-2015 season. (Reiners/Getty Images)
NAPA, Calif. – Sang-Moon Bae’s victory at the Frys.com Open came at an appropriate time. The Presidents Cup will be held in his native Korea in almost exactly one year (Oct. 8-11, 2015).
“It’s most important to me because it is in Korea next year. It really means a lot,” he said. “If I can’t play it, I will be really sad.”
Bae leads the FedExCup after his two-shot victory over Steven Bowditch at the Frys.com Open, the first event of the 2014-15 season. He has work to do to make the International Presidents Cup Team, though. He started the week at No. 195 in the Official World Golf Ranking and 51st in the International Team standings.
After his victory, Bae moved to 90th in the world and 23rd in the International Team standings. Bowditch, who netted his first TOUR title last season, climbed from 31st to 17th in the International standings.
The Frys.com Open was Bae’s second win on the PGA TOUR. He didn’t have a top-10 finish in 36 events between the Frys.com Open and his first victory, at the AT&T Byron Nelson Championship in May 2013.
“I was very frustrated,” Bae said. “Even though my game was good, the score wasn’t. I was very frustrated and I was very anxious and nervous.”
He joins K.J. Choi and Y.E. Yang as the only Korean men to win multiple times on the PGA TOUR.
Like most of the Korean players on the PGA TOUR, Bae counts Choi as a mentor. Choi will be a vice captain at next year’s Presidents Cup.
“He’s a really good friend, really good golfer,” Bae said. “I respect him.”
WINNER'S STATS: SANG-MOON BAE
Category Rank Statistic Strokes gained tee-to-green 1st 3.16 strokes/round Driving distance 26th 299.4 yards Driving accuracy 37th 31 of 56 (55.4 percent) Greens in regulation 6th 54 of 72 (75.0 percent) Strokes gained-putting 44th 0.231 strokes/round Putts per round 11th 27.75 putts/round Birdies 6th 20 birdies
Sang-Moon Bae holds on to win the Frys.com Open
INSPIRING OTHERS: Choi didn’t earn his first PGA TOUR card until he was 29 years old. His success, and Yang’s win at the 2009 PGA, have inspired more players of Korean descent to come to the PGA TOUR at a younger age. This was the fifth time in the last four years that a player of Korean descent in his 20s has won on the PGA TOUR. Whee Kim, 22, and Sung Joon Park, 28, graduated the Web.com Tour in 2014, as well.
TOUGH TEST: Silverado Resort held up well in its first time hosting the PGA TOUR in more than three decades. Sunday’s conditions were especially tough, as players faced sporadic winds for the first time all week. The 7,203-yard, par-72 course played to a 71.9 scoring average in the final round, and 71.7 average for the week. “I really like this course because it’s a classic,” Bae said. “Always classic courses you need really good iron shots. Really narrow, small greens, a lot of undulation.”
BY THE NUMBERS: Bae's win was another example of a player who won in spite of average putting. He finished 44th in strokes gained-putting (0.23 strokes gained per round). He led the field in strokes gained tee-to-green, though (3.16 strokes gained per round).
AN EXTRA PERK: Steven Bowditch collected a nice check before the holiday season. He finished second at the Frys.com Open after a final-round 67 that matched the low round of the day.
“It’s nice to come out of the gates and just make Christmas a bit easier,” Bowditch, winner of the 2014 Valero Texas Open, said. That victory was his only top-10 of last season. This was the second runner-up of his career (2013 Greenbrier Classic) and his fourth top-10 in 128 PGA TOUR starts.
He made one birdie and one bogey on the front nine, but had three birdies and an eagle in his back-nine 31. He eagled the par-5 16th after hitting his 236-yard second shot with a 4-iron to 34 feet.
A LEARNING EXPERIENCE: PGA TOUR rookie Zac Blair found himself in Sunday’s final group in his first start as a TOUR member. A final-round 74 in Sunday’s hot, breezy conditions dropped him 10 spots on the leaderboard into a tie for 12th. He made bogey on two of his first three holes Sunday, but made birdie on the last hole after hitting his 70-yard approach shot to 5 feet.
“It was a good learning experience,” Blair, 24, said. “I didn’t have my best stuff today, but I kind of hung in there. It was nice to finish with a birdie.
“It was what I had expected. I wish I had played better. … Everything was just a little off today. It was just little things, easy fixes. You take it in stride and learn from it.”
Blair was playing amateur golf at the start of 2014 and was considering staying amateur until the 2014 q-school after playing poorly at the previous q-school and earning very limited Web.com Tour status. He turned professional, though, upon seeing that players with similar status were getting into PGA TOUR Latinoamerica events. He played that circuit before making his first Web.com Tour start. He earned a TOUR card by finishing second at the season finale, the Web.com Tour Championship.
WATCH OUT FOR LAIRD: Martin Laird could be one to watch at next week’s Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. He finished third at the Frys.com Open, and the Shriners was site of his first PGA TOUR victory, in 2009.
“I like to play aggressive and you have to play aggressive there, because it takes 18, 19, 20 under to win,” Laird said. “It generally suits someone that can hit it far and high and fly all of the bunkers.”
He failed to qualify for the recent FedExCup Playoffs but ended the 2013-14 season on a strong note, posting top-30 finishes in his final three events. He said reuniting with coach Mark McCann in July was key to finding good form again. He felt like he had a chance to catch Bae in the final round until a sluggish finish dropped him from contention.
He had three three-putts Sunday and was disappointed to make pars on the par-5 16th and 18th holes, which he can reach in two shots.
“Some weeks you feel really good about finishing third and some weeks you kind of are frustrated, thinking that you could have done better, and it was one of those weeks for me,” Laird said. “I’m going to take a couple days to get over this one.”
OFF TO A GOOD START: Jon Curran missed the cut in 11 of the last 13 events of the Web.com Tour season, a stretch that dated back to June. He was the only rookie to finish in the top-10 at the Frys.com Open, though.
“It’s awesome to come here and start the year off on a good note, especially since I didn’t end the year off well on the Web.com Tour,” Curran said. “I was ready to come out here and get it going.”
Curran made three birdies and one bogey Sunday to shoot 70 and finish T8 at 11-under 277 (68-72-67-70). The 27-year-old Vanderbilt alum was a high-school teammate of Keegan Bradley.
TRICKY FOR MAHAN: Hunter Mahan’s third-place finish included a hole-out from 91 yards for eagle on the par-4 13th hole. He played his next five holes in 1 over – making four pars and a bogey – to finish three shots behind Bae.
“(The ball) came out just a little more left than we thought, but it hit and rolled and tracked in like a putt,” said Mahan, who shot a final-round 70. “The greens were really tricky. The wind was really tricky today. Trying to chip it around the greens was really difficult. A really good test today.”
Mahan shot 70 or better in all four rounds, finishing at 10-under 278 (70-68-68-70).
THIS AND THAT: Jarrod Lyle finished T31 in his first PGA TOUR start since 2012. He Monday qualified for the event, his first on TOUR since defeating leukemia for a second time. He deemed this week a ‘huge success.’ Click here to read more. … Lee Westwood matched the low score of the final round with his 67. He credited an alignment fix from his caddie with his T12 finish. Click here to read more. … Robert Allenby finished T8, his first top-10 since the 2013 FedEx St. Jude Classic (T10). The St. Jude was his lone top-10 in 66 PGA TOUR starts before the Frys.com Open. … Matt Kuchar started the final round in third place, but fell to 21st with a final-round 76. He made bogey on three of his first four holes Sunday.
Category Player Statistic Strokes gained tee-to-green Sang-Moon Bae 3.16 strokes/round Driving distance Jason Kokrak 321.3 yards Driving accuracy Robert Allenby 45 of 56 (80.4 percent) Greens in regulation J. Curran, A. Gonzales 57 of 72 (79.2 percent) Strokes gained-putting Retief Goosen 2.32 strokes/round Putts per round Steven Bowditch 25.5 putts/round Birdies Bryce Molder 23 birdies