Sang-Moon Bae’s maiden PGA Tour victory came in fine style yesterday at The 2013 HP Byron Nelson Championship in Irving, TX. Playing alongside long-time leader Keegan Bradley, the South Korean began his final round one shot adrift of his playing partner.
Momentum switched drastically in Bae’s favour when Bradley found water on the third, and Bae took advantage with a birdie three, and in doing so took the lead for the first time. With three more quickfire birdies on five, six and seven, Bae stretched his lead to four in extremely windy conditions. That lead was quickly eroded when Bae gave the chasing pack hope by dropping three shots in two holes around the turn.
Bae showed serious mettle in his birdie streak on the front nine, but what was most impressive was his recovery after losing his four-shot lead. He controlled his emotions superbly on the back nine in a mental performance that would be any sports psychologists’ dream.
He surprised some by pulling out driver on the last while holding a two-shot lead, but in striping it down the middle, he effectively closed the door on Bradley, who had battled on gamely despite Bae’s advantage at half way.
Despite this being Bae’s maiden PGA Tour victory, he is no stranger to the winner’s circle, having won 11 times on the Asian Tour. He was also runner-up in a play-off at last years Transitions Championship. However, his time on the PGA Tour hasn’t been all that lucrative. Although he hasn’t missed many cuts, that playoff defeat was one of only three top-10 finishes on Tour, one of which was tied fifth in last year’s Accenture Matchplay.
Jason Day and Keegan Bradley have both used winning this event as a springboard for further success, and one suspects Bae can do the same.
He is certainly a popular winner among his fellow pros and is well-liked by his peers. James Hahn described Bae yesterday as “the Korean version of Boo Weekley” and “one of the funniest guys on tour”. It always makes me feel a little older every time we have a new young winner on tour, but I look forward to seeing a lot more of Bae’s impressive self-taught swing.