South Korean Sang-Moon Bae overtook 54-hole leader Keegan Bradley on the front nine and held on for dear life on the back nine to win for the first time on the PGA TOUR at the TPC Four Seasons Las Colinas. Bae fired a final round 69 to post 13-under-par 267 to hold off the American by two shots. South African Charl Schwartzel was one further shot back at 270 to round out the podium.
“Moon” as he’s known on TOUR began Sunday in the final group for the first time in his career and he wasted no time showing Keegan Bradley that he meant business. He birdied four of his first seven holes to take a commanding four-shot lead but they don’t hand out trophies on the front nine on Sundays. He double-bogeyed No. 9 and made bogeys and Nos. 10 and 15 to see his lead vanish. He held it together and made a birdie on No. 16 and finished par-par to clinch his first title.
Bae’s victory this week was no fluke as he battled former PGA Champion Keegan Bradley down the stretch and came out on top. Bae finished the week making the most birdies with 21. It wasn’t a coincidence that he was T9 in GIR, second in strokes-gained putting and first in putts per GIR. He entered the week 31st in strokes gained-putting but was just 136th in ball-striking, proving once again, there are multiple ways to win tournaments on TOUR. His solid play saw him card only six bogeys and a double on a weekend where the wind was definitely a factor. Plus, he wasn’t fending off another up-and-comer; this was a major champion.
In 13 starts in 2013, his second year on TOUR, Bae has made 10 cuts but only one of those finishes before today ended in the top 33 (T8; Riviera). After his T8, he missed two cuts, had a WD and his best finish was T33 last week at THE PLAYERS. He “fits the profile” of some of our other off-the-radar winners in 2013 who didn’t have many current successes before winning. He joined the TOUR in 2012 after finishing T11 at Q-School and played 25 events last season. He saw the weekend 17 times but only hit the top 25 four times. His best finishes were P2 to Luke Donald at Transitions (now Tampa Bay Championship) and T5 (losing quarterfinalist) at WGC-Match Play. In the 17 starts after his playoff defeat, he finished in the top 25 once in a quiet end to 2012. He does have a pedigree of winning golf tournaments though as he’s won 11 times throughout Asia, Korea and Japan. Now, he’s proven his stock on the big circuit.
With this victory, Bae collects $1,206,000 and 500 FedExCup points. He also receives a two-year exemption and a trip to the 2014 Masters.
Déjà vu All Over Again?
There have been 21 tournaments this season. The USA posted winners in the first 14 before the internationals rattled off three straight victories. The Stars and Stripes won the next three in a row but the internationals now have the honor.
The winners on TOUR have been Johnson, D (28), Henley (24), Gay (41), Woods FOUR times (37), Mickelson (42), Snedeker (32), Merrick (30) Kuchar (34),Thompson, M (27) Brown (29), Streelman (34), Points (36), Laird (30), Scott (32), G-Mac (33), Horschel (26), Ernst (22) and now Bae (26). The young folks (30 and younger) now have nine victories; the 30-somethings have 10 victories, and the “old folks” (40 and up) have their two wins. This week’s “great hope” for the Old folks was Tom Gillis, who will be 45 in June, was two shots out of the lead entering Sunday but faded to T12 after 76. Angel Cabrera, 43, was also T12.
Bae joins Jason Day (2010) and Keegan Bradley (2011) as players to win in their first event at the HP Byron Nelson Championship. Weird.
Bae is the fifth player of Korean descent to post a victory on the PGA TOUR. He joins K.J. Choi, Y.E. Yang, Kevin Na and John Huh.
Keegan Bradley: After opening with 60, which included two bogeys, 10 birdies and an eagle, Bradley made just 10 birdies the rest of the week to finish second. His 20 birdies were just one behind Bae but not enough to hold his 54-hole lead. Bradley obviously likes the track here as he’s now finished second, T24 and WIN in his only three starts the last three years. Sometimes it takes a friendly place to get a guy back on track and this did the trick. Bradley, who entered the week off finishes of T54, MC and MC has proven once again that form is temporary and class is permanent. He should thank his caddie for pushing him to the Byron Nelson instead of teeing it up at Colonial next week.
Charl Schwartzel: Usually lights out ON the greens, this week Schwartzel led the field in hitting them. His usually cooperative putter saw him finish 20th in strokes gained-putting but he did exactly what gamers expected him to do: Finish in the top 10. He did, T3, and he returns to the top 10 for the first time in his last five events (Honda, T9). Schwartzel was also making his first start here.
Justin Bolli: After being cut in seven of 11 events this season, it’s an understatement to say that I am surprised that Bolli hit the top 10 this week. Welcome to the column, Justin! He earned his card after winning the 2012 Web.com Tour Championship and hits the top 10 for the second time this season after his T4 in Puerto Rico. Known as an accurate driver of the golf ball, he parlayed his accuracy into T21 GIR and was 12th in strokes gained-putting this week. Bolli was also on the TOUR in 2005, 2008 and 2010. For more information, contact Ryan O’Sullivan who has probably played a few rounds with him in South Carolina.
Morgan Hoffmann: The first of the Hoffman(n) brothers, who are not related, in the top 10 this week, Morgan finished T5 for his best finish ever on TOUR. Hoffmann now has hit the top 25 in three of his last six starts on TOUR. The other three starts have been MC. In 10 starts in in 2013 he’s only made four cuts but he’s currently ranked No 51 in the all-around. He gained his TOUR card by finishing No. 19 on the Web.com money list last season and he should be on your radar as he settles in this season.
Martin Kaymer: The German returns to the Sunday column for the first time since his T9 at WGC-Match Play in February. Due to very solid ball-striking this week, he finally dodged the “big round” and finished T5. He has been slow to fire this season, his first on TOUR, and the results have been maddening for gamers. In seven events following that T9, Kaymer’s best finish was T35 at the Masters. Now, he’ll start making all of us think just a little bit more on whether we should include him the next time out. Excellent, more uncertainty! I’d keep an eye on him his next time out as four rounds in the 60s should boost his confidence in the short term.
Scott Piercy: He joins Kaymer as being out of the Sunday column since WGC-Match Play but his T5 this week breaks up a troubling run of form for gamers, thankfully. He followed his T9 with T25 at WGC-Cadillac but in his next five events leading into this week he was MC, MC, T54, MC and MC. This was after opening the season T13, T15, MC and third. Piercy goes up. Piercy goes down. His ball-striking carried him this week as he was second GIR and T18 in driving accuracy. He plays in streaks so it’s time to saddle up! You’ll need to put him down in ink pen next year as he’s now finished T5, T15 and 26th in his last three starts here. Trending in the right direction!
Charley Hoffman: His putter carried him to another top 10 finish in 2013, No. 4 in 12 events played. After his T20, T3 and T6 run in Texas and at the RBC, he cooled off with a MC at Zurich and T37 last week at THE PLAYERS. This streak of steady play is his best run in the last few years so I’m keeping an eye on him moving forward. This is also his third top 10 at this event in eight starts so he gets a stall in the “horse-for-course” paddock in Irving.
John Huh: The last player of Korean descent to win on TOUR, Huh rode his normal strengths, accurate driving and steady putting, to his first top 10 (T8) in 15 events in 2013. His best previous finish was T11 at the Masters. He’s now made nine cuts in 15 events but has only three top 25s. Last year, he racked up 12 top 25s in 25 events, plus his win, so he’s still growing up.
Ryo Ishikawa: Youth was served this week as Japan’s Ishikawa followed Koreans Bae and Huh, plus American Hoffmann into the top 10 this week as he finished T10. Entering the week he had made four cuts from five events but his best finish in that run was only T38 at the Masters. Many thought this young man would have had a few wins by now but his best finish remains second in Puerto Rico last season. In 56 TOUR events, Ishikawa has hit the top 10 five times. In 2013, there hasn’t been much to suggest that would change as he missed half of his first 12 cuts to start the season with his best finish being that T38. Tread lightly, gamers.
Graham DeLaet: The second-best ball-striker on TOUR lived up to the billing this week as he finished T7 in driving accuracy and T3 in GIR in his T10 result. DeLaet returns to the column for the first time since his T9, his co-best finish of 2013, at The Honda. He’s now made 11 of 14 cuts on the year, including nine of his last 10. He’s on your list next week if he’s playing.
“Hey, what ever happened to…”
I take a look back at what happened to the chalk
Jason Day: Bookend 72s cancelled out his 68-66 Friday/Saturday as Day finally falls out of the top nine here with his T27 finish. He hit a ton of greens but didn’t make any putts, which is strange for him. He’s 11-11 on the year and has six top 25s. SORRY HE WAS MY ONE-AND-DONE. THERE, I SAID IT.
Marc Leishman: His massive run of form continues with another solid finish, T12, this week. He was T3 in GIR so he was sharp and he’s been over par exactly twice in the last 16 rounds on some challenging courses. No wonder why T12 is his WORST finish in four starts.
Jimmy Walker: He joined Jason Day on T27 as his final round 72 knocked him out of the top 25. It was Walker’s only round over par on the week as his very steady play continues. He’s now made 23 cuts in a row, best on TOUR. I have two starts left on him in Yahoo!
D.A. Points: Speaking of a fine run of form, the former Illini has now bagged seven cuts in a row as his T12 sees him hit the top 16 for the fourth time in those seven starts. He’s spent plenty of time in my columns the last two months!
Jason Dufner: The defending champ finished T33. Wash, rinse, repeat. He has not hit the top 10 this season even though he’s made 10 of 12 cuts. The good news is he’s made five straight. Next step is getting it into the top 10.
Ryan Palmer: He was on pace to hit the top 10 for the third straight appearance here as he opened 65-68. His 73-73 weekend saw him finish T33. He’s made the cut in 10 of 13 events and is 2/3 of the way to his 2012 money total already. Buy and hold in general and he’s now finished T33, T9 and second the last three years here.
Matt Kuchar: He couldn’t shake off his 75-76 finish from THE PLAYERS to take it low this week and help the Yahoo! crowd. He had nothing better than 69 and nothing worse than 71 for T33.
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