Bae qualifies for next PGA Tour
Bae shot five under par, 66, in the final round to finish the tournament at 19 under par, 265, one shot ahead of the four players tied for runner-up. Bae got off to a quick start with three straight birdies in his first three holes. After adding two more birdies in the back nine, Bae was tied for the lead at 18 under par along with two others heading onto the final hole. Bae didn’t waste his time finishing the tournament, as he made a 2-meter (6.5-foot) birdie putt to finish one shot ahead of the runners-up.
“This has been an incredible week,” Bae told the Golf Channel in his post-round interview. “The last few holes were tough, and I’ve struggled this year so far. I was trying to focus on my game and keep patient.”
With prize money of $180,000, Bae moved up to 12th on Web.com Tour’s The 25 ranking, thanks to his status as leader in the Web.com Tour Finals series. The top 25 players in The 25 Rank will be given a PGA Tour status card. Although there’s still one tournament left in the season, Bae is guaranteed a PGA Tour card, as he will maintain his ranking within the top 25 regardless of the result at the season finale.
This was Bae’s first victory since the Frys.com Open in October 2014. Bae, who joined the PGA Tour in 2012, had to miss almost two years of his golfing career due to his mandatory military service in Korea.
Prior to starting his military service in November 2015, Bae lost a legal battle against the local military manpower agency over the extension of his overseas travel permit. Bae hoped to extend his visa, which expired at the end of 2014, so that he could continue playing in the United States. Despite having a green card, the Korean government rejected Bae’s request for an extension, as the government said he spent too much time in Korea to be considered a foreign resident.
At the time, Bae had just completed his best season on the PGA Tour, where he picked up two PGA Tour victories and was added to the international team to compete at the 2015 Presidents Cup. Bae left for the military right after the Presidents Cup.
“It was a great time,” Bae said after being discharged from the military in August 2017. “I’ve learned the value of perseverance each and every day, and I think this will form a great foundation for the rest of my life.”
Only a month after he was discharged, Bae competed in the Shinhan Donghae Open, the KPGA Tour’s major tournament. But it wasn’t as easy for Bae to get back in shape. After a disappointing tournament in Korea, Bae headed to the United States to play on the PGA Tour, but continued to struggle. Out of the 17 tournaments Bae competed in, he missed the cut 12 times.
Bae dropped to 196th on the PGA Tour’s money ranking and 202nd on the FedEx Cup ranking for the 2017-18 season, which led him to lose his PGA Tour card for the upcoming season.
When it seemed as if Bae’s career in the United States was over, he got another chance to regain his PGA Tour card on the Web.com Tour. Bae registered to compete in the Web.com Tour’s final series, which are the last four tournaments of the season. Only the top 75 players from the Web.com Tour’s regular season money list and players ranked from 126th to 200th in the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup standings are invited to compete in this tournament. In the first three tournaments, Bae finished tied for 35th in the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship, tied for sixth in the DAP Championship presented by NewBrick and a scored a victory in the third series.
Now that Bae has earned his status card, rather than competing in the Web.com Tour’s season finale, Bae will be preparing for the PGA Tour 2018-2019 season opener, the Safeway Open, which will run from Oct. 5 to 8 in Napa, California.
“I am excited to be competing with other top players on the PGA Tour,” Bae told the Golf Channel in his post-tournament interview. “That really means a lot.”
Im Sung-jae, the current leader of the Web.com Tour’s money ranking, was the second-best Korean golfer at the tournament, finishing tied for 43rd at eight under par.
The Web.com Tour will wrap up at the season-finale Web.com Tour Championship, which runs from Sept. 20 to 23 at Atlantic Beach Country Club in Florida.
BY KIM JI-HAN, KANG YOO-RIM [firstname.lastname@example.org]