Sang-Moon Bae: A Personality Emerges off the Course

So I watched Sang-Moon Bae all afternoon as he went about the business of converting his 54-hole, 4-shot lead into a Sunday victory in the Frys.com Open on the North Course at the Silverado Country Club in Napa, California. He left two of those four shots out there somewhere, but he got the job done.

He beat a hard-charging, go-for-broke, Steven Bowditch, by two and whose 67 matched the low round of the day. That it was only a 67 was a good measure of how hard the course played on Sunday with the Santa Ana winds blowing from the east. Bowditch has one Tour win to his credit with his win last year in the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio. You may recall that his victory was heartwarming for his having learned how to manage his depression.

And Bowditch, in turn, beat the five T3s by one. They were a pretty distinguished group: Past Champion, Bryce Molder, Hideki Matsuyama, Retief Goosen, Martin Laird and Hunter Mahan. 

Bae could do no better than 1-over for the day. But even then his winning total was 15-under. Too many 3-putts he said.

“It was a really, really good game.  The course wasn’t easy.  The greens were so fast, a lot of three‑putts, and a lot of bogeys.”

“But I know how well I did this week.  I hit the ball really solid and swinging really good, so I’m very happy and still excited.”

All of that is true. As I wrote in yesterday’s post, this guy has a swing and sound at impact to die for.

But what I found particularly interesting was that after watching him stoically wending his way around the course, and after reading his plain-vanilla, post-round interview, that he is a very charming and funny. But the only way I found that out was by also watching the video of the interview (the Tour has it set up so that you can’t link to the interview. The only way to see it is by going to pgatour.com.)

I suppose that you would be grinning from ear-to-ear whether you were Korean or American after a win like that. But it was in stark contrast to his demeanor on the course. The other thing is that he doesn’t look like a deep, rich voice would come out of him. And on top of that he has a playful manner about him, akin to the way that Tiger banters with the media after a good day.

Asked if he played baseball, he said “yes:” Asked if he was any good, he said:

“Yeah, I was good.”

And then with a mischievous smile on his face:

“Really good.”

Unfortunately he doesn’t play any more because of fear of injury, but he does throw the ball around still. And for the record, he follows the LA Dodgers.

You couldn’t tell who asked him that question about his favorite team, but it might have been someone from the LA Times, because when he answered it, the room rippled with good-natured laughter as if his answer had been tailored for the questioner. It was a deft touch.

And although he still appears self-conscious about his English and speaks with a pronounced Korean accent, he speaks and his voice inflections are in idiomatic English. It’s obvious that he’s been working at it.

All in all, Bae is a very appealing package. Now that he’s through the “won twice” barrier, it will be interesting to see how he blossoms.

With next year’s Presidents Cup being played in Korea, making that team is his number one goal.

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