Korea’s Sang-Moon Bae’s 66, 69, 65 has him in the driver’s seat at the Frys.com Open by four shots. The first time I saw his swing in person at the Accenture Match Play Championship a couple of years ago, it was mesmerizing. I remember standing there on the range — with all the other swing eye candy in full display — for at least a half an hour watching him hit balls. I was chatting with his U.S. agent who could barely contain his glee.
Every swing was dead on plane. Every shot was clean and crisp; there was not a hint of scruffiness before the ball, a tight shallow divot after the ball and that unmistakeable sound of that ball being aggressively compressed with seemingly no effort. And that was before he won the 2013 HP Byron Nelson.
In an amusing tangent in his interview, he responded that his U.S. base is in Dallas:
“Yes. I have an apartment in Dallas, so I’m practicing at TPC Four Seasons where I won there. I really, really like that place. Really easy traveling to everywhere. Of course there’s no state tax in Texas.”
And that he doesn’t have a pair of cowboy boots…yet.
Zachary Blair is right behind him and impressively by himself in 2nd. He joined the Tour this year after finishing 11th on the Web.com priority list. So you wouldn’t think that you would find him this high on the leaderboard.
But he spent a good chunk of 2014 playing 7 events on the PGA Tour Latinoamerica Tour and 1 event in Vancouver on the PGA Tour Canada Tour. As he explained it, he had a very low priority number on the Web.com Tour and didn’t want to waste any playing time while he was waiting to get into tournaments later in the year. It stood him in good stead because when he began getting into events in July, he made the most of it with two 2nds, another top 10 and three more top 25s. Today’s young players don’t seem to mind where they have to go to get playing time.
Another example of that is Brooks Koepka, T3 and one stroke back with Matt Kuchar, Scott Langley and Martin Laird (who went a bit flat with a 71).
Koepka made his professional debut on the European Tour’s Challenge Tour and ended up playing 17 events on the big European Tour over 2013 and 2014. He also played an event each on the Southern Africa Tour and the Asian PGA. He still has status on the European Tour, so he’s playing Las Vegas next week, taking a week off at home in Jupiter, Florida, and then spending two weeks in China and one each in Turkey and Dubai. A real world traveler.
There’s still more great talent waiting in the wings should Bae stumble on Sunday, but he is both playing and speaking confidently. We shall see.