South Korean Bae Captures Futures Tour Event
Perhaps that is because K.B., as she is called on the Futures Golf Tour, is always in the hunt -- always hanging around the lead, always challenging and chasing. As an 18-year-old rookie in 2004, she finished in the top 10 seven times and made 17 of 18 cuts in a year that included two second-place finishes and a final money ranking of eighth.
So it came as no surprise that Bae would again charge from behind in today's final round of the $70,000 IOS Futures Golf Classic to win her first professional title in four starts this season. Bae trailed the leader by five shots mid-round, but remained focused and birdied two of her last four holes to card a final-round 70. That moved the teen into a three-way playoff at 5-under-par 211.
But after returning to the 18th hole for a second time at the Underwood Golf Complex Sunrise Course, Bae the chaser, finally became Bae the closer. Her competition, Tara Bateman of Phoenix, who had been the final-round leader for most of the day, along with Hye Jung Choi of Seoul, Korea, who fired a career-low 65, each stumbled with three-foot par putts that would have forced a second playoff hole.
'I didn't expect them to miss those putts,' said Bae, of Seoul, Korea. 'I thought we'd play another hole. This is just unbelievable.'
Bateman, who shot a 1-under-par final round of 71, toured the front nine holes of the 6,349-yard course with four birdies and one bogey this morning. She added another birdie on the 10th. Earlier, Bateman grabbed the lead outright from Adrienne Gautreaux of Mabank, Texas, when Gautreaux bogeyed the fifth hole and Bateman birdied. Bateman birdied the sixth and Gautreaux bogeyed the seventh, giving Bateman a three-shot cushion.
'I looked at the leaderboard after nine holes and could see that Choi was six under for the day, so I knew I needed some additional cushion,' said Bateman, 25, who played her college golf at Baylor University. 'I wanted to make a run at it. I certainly didn't think par was going to win.'
Choi was the first to finish. Her bogey-free, seven-birdie round had players in the leader's group a little nervous as they stared at her number on the board. The Futures Tour rookie hit 17 greens and was hanging out at the club's back patio waiting to see who would fold or who would come in with the score to win.
'I'm nervous and I'm excited, but I had fun,' said Choi, 20, whose best career finish had been ninth place last year on the Korean LPGA and a fifth-place finish earlier this season in Tampa on the Futures Tour. 'I felt it was going to be a good day today.'
Gautreaux righted herself on the back nine and charged back into a tie at five under with one hole to play. But that late charge ended when she didn't get up and down for par on the final hole from 20 feet. She settled into a tie for fourth with rookie Sarah Huarte of Shingle Springs, Calif., whose weekend scores of 67-69 moved the 2004 NCAA individual champion into the top five for the first time as a pro.
Last week's winner, Virada Nirapathpongporn of Bangkok, Thailand, also made a run for a spot in the playoff, but instead of making birdie from 27 feet on the 18th green, she ran her putt 2 feet past, then lipped out her comeback to drop a shot.
That left Choi, Bateman and Bae. But it was Bae's day. And the daughter of Chan Soo Bae, her faithful caddie-father who played professional soccer for Spain's Real Madrid, knew it was her time to step up. Her father and her mother, who had played world-class table tennis, spent so many years before this moment ingraining the spirit of competition into the head of their talented eldest daughter.
And today, it showed.
'I think she is just a solid player,' said Bateman of Bae. 'To be that solid all the time is incredible, and she has a great short game. It was due time for her to win.'
The three-time Korean Open champion, who was ranked sixth on the Korean LPGA Money List in 2003, bogeyed only the fifth hole and posted three birdies in today's final round. But it was enough. She had learned from her athletic parents how to patiently wait for the moment and to pounce whenever opportunity presented itself.
'Both of my parents have really good athletic minds and they gave it to me,' said Bae, handling her own interview in careful English. 'It has made me more comfortable and calm.'
K.B. calmly jumped from 13th to first on the season money list with her $9,800 winner's check. And her peers can expect the never-rattled demeanor of Kyeong Bae to calmly contend for the rest of the year.
x-Kyeong Bae, $9,800 72-69-70--211
Hye Jung Choi, $6,085 73-73-65--211
Tara Bateman, $6,085 72-68-71--211
Sarah Huarte, $3,736 76-67-69--212
Adrienne Gautreaux, $3,736 69-71-72--212
Virada Nirapathpongporn, $2,388 73-71-69--213
Courtney Wood, $2,388 73-69-71--213
Ji Min Jeong, $1,951 73-72-69--214
Kelly Lagedrost, $1,951 74-68-72--214
Katie Connelly, $1,610 70-74-71--215
Kristy McPherson, $1,610 75-67-73--215
Christine Boucher, $1,426 78-66-72--216
Soon-Hwa Lee, $1,294 74-73-70--217
Kellee Booth, $1,294 71-71-75--217
Chiharu Yamaguchi, $1,011 76-72-70--218
Su A Kim, $1,011 74-73-71--218
Saki Uechi, $1,011 75-72-71--218
Jenny Gleason, $1,011 70-75-73--218
Alena Sharp, $1,011 73-72-73--218
Janell Howland, $1,011 78-66-74--218
Aimee Cho, $779 70-78-71--219
Anna Knutsson, $779 75-73-71--219
Kristin Dufour, $779 76-70-73--219
Lori Atsedes, $779 75-71-73--219
Meaghan Francella, $779 75-70-74--219
DJ: Kapalua win means nothing for Abu Dhabi
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Dustin Johnson's recent victory in Hawaii doesn't mean much when it comes to this week's tournament.
The top-ranked American will play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for the second straight year. But this time he is coming off a victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which he won by eight shots.
''That was two weeks ago. So it really doesn't matter what I did there,'' said Johnson, who finished runner-up to Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi last year. ''This is a completely new week and everybody starts at even par and so I've got to start over again.''
In 2017, the long-hitting Johnson put himself in contention despite only making one eagle and no birdies on the four par-5s over the first three rounds.
''The par 5s here, they are not real easy because they are fairly long, but dependent on the wind, I can reach them if I hit good tee balls,'' the 2016 U.S. Open champion said. ''Obviously, I'd like to play them a little better this year.''
The tournament will see the return of Paul Casey as a full member of the European Tour after being away for three years.
''It's really cool to be back. What do they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Quite cheesy, but no, really, really cool,'' said the 40-year-old Englishman, who is now ranked 14th in the world. ''When I was back at the Open Championship at Birkdale, just the reception there, playing in front of a home crowd, I knew this is something I just miss.''
The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starts Thursday and also features former No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who is making a comeback after more than three months off.
Kuchar joins European Tour as affiliate member
Months after he nearly captured the claret jug, Matt Kuchar has made plans to play a bit more golf in Europe in 2018.
Kuchar is in the field this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told reporters in advance of the opening round that he has opted to join the European Tour as an affiliate member:
Matt Kuchar— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) January 17, 2018
"It's been a passion of mine to explore & see the world, and I'll now be joining the European Tour as an Affiliate Member, which is very exciting." pic.twitter.com/7wDbuGXz8j
As an affiliate member, Kuchar will not have a required minimum number of starts to make. It's the same membership status claimed last year by Kevin Na and Jon Rahm, the latter of whom then became a full member and won two European Tour events in 2017.
Kuchar made six European Tour starts last year, including his runner-up performance at The Open. He finished T-4 at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in his lone European Tour start that wasn't co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour.
Hot Seat: Rory jumps into the fire early
The world’s top tours head to desert regions this week, perfect locales for The Hot Seat, the gauge upon which we measure the level of heat the game’s top personalities are facing ...
Sahara sizzle: Rory McIlroy
McIlroy won’t have to look far to see how his form measures up to world No. 1 Dustin Johnson at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
McIlroy will make his 2018 debut with Johnson in his face, literally.
McIlroy will be grouped with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood in the first two rounds.
Players like to downplay pairings early in a tournament, but it’s hard to believe McIlroy and Johnson won’t be trying to send each other messages in this European Tour event in the United Arab Emirates. That’s the alpha-dog nature of world-class players looking to protect their turf, or in the case of McIlroy, take back his turf.
“When you are at the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Trevor Immelman said about pairings during Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge last month.
And that was an offseason event.
“They want to show this guy, ‘This is what I got,’” Immelman said.
As early season matchups go, Abu Dhabi is a heavyweight pairing that ought to be fun.
So there will be no easing into the new year for McIlroy after taking off the last three months to regroup from the stubborn rib injury that plagued him last season. He is coming off a winless year, and he will be doing so alongside a guy who just won the first PGA Tour event of 2018 in an eight-shot rout. Johnson’s victory in Hawaii two weeks ago was his fifth since McIlroy last won.
“Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place, and that was because of where I was physically,” McIlroy said of 2017. “I feel prepared now. I feel ready, and I feel ready to challenge. I feel really good about where I’m at with my health. I’ve put all that behind me, which has been great.”
Sonoran Smolder: Phil Mickelson
Mickelson will turn 48 this summer.
His world ranking is sliding, down to No. 43 now, which is the lowest he has ranked in 24 years.
It’s been more than four years since he last won, making him 0 for his last 92 starts.
There’s motivation in all of that for Mickelson. He makes his 2018 debut at the CareerBuilder Challenge in the Palm Springs area this week talking like a man on a renewed mission.
There’s a Ryder Cup team to make this season, which would be his 12th straight, and there’s a career Grand Slam to claim, with the U.S. Open returning to Shinnecock Hills, where Mickelson finished second in ’04.
While Mickelson may not feel old, there are so many young stars standing in his way that it’s hard not to be constantly reminded that time isn’t on his side in these events anymore.
There has only been one player in the history of the game to win a major championship who was older than Mickelson is right now. Julius Boros won the PGA Championship when he was 48 back in 1968.
Campaign fever: Jordan Spieth
Spieth’s respect in the game’s ranks extends outside the ropes.
He was just selected to run for the PGA Tour Player Advisory Council’s chairman position. He is facing Billy Hurley III in an election to see who will succeed Davis Love III on the Tour’s Policy Board next year.
Spieth, just 24, has already made Time Magazine’s list of the “100 Most Influential People.” He made that back in 2016, with the magazine writing that “he exemplifies everything that’s great about sports.” Sounds like a campaign slogan.
CareerBuilder Challenge: Tee times, TV schedule, stats
The PGA Tour shifts from Hawaii to Southern California for the second full-field event of the year. Here are the key stats and information for the CareerBuilder Challenge. Click here for full-field tee times.
How to watch (all rounds on Golf Channel):
Thursday, Rd. 1: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream
Friday, Rd. 2: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream
Saturday, Rd. 3: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream
Sunday, Rd. 4: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream
Purse: $5.9 million ($1,062,000 to winner)
Courses: PGA West, Stadium Course, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,113); PGA West, Nicklaus Tournament Course, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,159); La Quinta Country Club, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,060) NOTE: All three courses will be used for the first three rounds but only the Stadium Course will be used for the final round.
Defending champion: Hudson Swafford (-20) - defeated Adam Hadwin by one stroke to earn his first PGA Tour win.
Notables in the field
* This is his first start of 2018. It's the fourth consecutive year he has made this event the first one on his yearly calendar.
* For the second year in a row he will serve as the tournament's official ambassador.
* He has won this event twice - in 2002 and 2004.
* This will be his 97th worldwide start since his most recent win, The Open in 2013.
* Ranked No. 3 in the world, he finished runner-up in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.
* In 37 worldwide starts as a pro, he has 14 top-5 finishes.
* Last year he finished T-34 in this event.
* Last year in the third round, he shot 59 at La Quinta Country Club. It was the ninth - and still most recent - sub-60 round on Tour.
* In his only start of 2018, the Canadian finished 32nd in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.
* Only player on the PGA Tour with five top-10 finishes this season.
* Ranks fifth in greens in regulation this season.
* Finished third in the Sentry Tournament of Champions and T-4 in the Sony Open in Hawaii.
* Making only his third worldwide start since last June at the Travelers Championship. He has been recovering from a chest injury.
* This is his first start since he withdrew from the Indonesian Masters in December because of heat exhaustion.
* Hasn't played in this event since missing the cut in 2015.
* Earned his first career victory in this event in 2014, shooting three consecutive rounds of 63.
* This is his first start of 2018.
* Last season finished seventh in strokes gained: putting, the best ranking of his career.
(Stats provided by the Golf Channel editorial research unit.)