Stat attack!: Frys.com Open review

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Sang-Moon Bae wasn't at his best on the PGA Tour in 2013-14. The 28-year-old South Korean made just 13 cuts in 24 starts and finished no better than T-12 at the Northern Trust Open. He needed a T-14 finish at the Wyndham Championship just to qualify for the PGA Tour Playoffs, and finished 122nd on the FedEx Cup standings. 

It’s not the type of season he envisioned after winning the 2013 HP Byron Nelson Championship. Bae was one of seven players who won in 2013 only to fall completely off Tour leaderboards last season, finishing the year without any top 10s. He doesn’t have to worry about a repeat performance this year.

Despite a final-round 73 at Silverado Resort & Spa’s North Course, Bae held on for a two-stroke victory in the PGA Tour’s 2014-15 season-opening Frys.com Open. He shot 15-under 273 to beat Stephen Bowditch by two strokes and take the very early lead in the FedEx Cup standings. We’ll see how important that is in a moment. But first, here are the other 2013 winners who stumbled last season. You’ll certainly remember one of them.

2013 PGA Tour winners with no top 10s in 2013-14

 Player 2013 wins 2013-14 starts Best 2013-14 Frys.com result
 Woody Austin Sanderson Farms 22 T-13 Hyundai T of C DNP
 Sang-Moon Bae  Byron Nelson 24 T-12 Northern Trust Won
 Ken Duke Travelers 25 T-15 Las Vegas MC
 Derek Ernst Wells Fargo 28 T-27 Barracuda T-57
 John Merrick Northern Trust 25 T-19 Phoenix MC
 D.A. Points Shell Houston 27 T-18 Wyndham MC
 Tiger Woods Shell Houston 7 T-25 WGC-Cadillac DNP

A strong start leads to a solid finish

Bae’s victory in northern California could be a harbinger of good things for 2015. Seven off the previous eight winners of the PGA Tour’s season-opening event in the FedEx Cup era would finish in the top 30 on the money list and qualify for the Tour Championship. Only Daniel Chopra, the Hyundai Tournament of Champions winner in 2008, failed to reach those standards.

Bae, who qualifies for the Hyundai T of C, the PGA Championship and very likely the Masters as a result of Sunday’s win, is almost assured of having a career-best season. The third-year player was 96th on the FedEx Cup standings in 2013 when he won outside Dallas.

Season-ending points and money ranks by the winner of the PGA Tour’s first event

 Year Winner Reg. season FedEx rank Final FedEx rank Final money rank
 2014 Jimmy Walker 2 7 4
 2013 Dustin Johnson 16 13 19
 2012 Steve Stricker 10 20 18
 2011 Jonathan Byrd 24 27 22
 2010 Geoff Ogilvy 39 14 29
 2009 Geoff Ogilvy 8 13 8
 2008 Daniel Chopra 40 102 52
 2007 Vijay Singh 2 10 3

Presidential dreams

We’re still a year away from the 2015 Presidents Cup, but Bae’s win should get him prime consideration for selection to the International team, even if he doesn’t make the squad on merit. The tournament will be held in his homeland of South Korea and a host country has never had a player on the team.

What’s more, since the Presidents Cup began, only one International winner has failed to make the team after winning an event prior to the Cup being held in his homeland. That was Rory Sabbatini, who won the 2003 FBR Capital Open, yet didn’t get play in the Presidents Cup when it was held at the Links at Fancourt in South Africa that fall. (Although Stephen Ames won the 2007 Children’s Miracle Network Classic, he can hardly be faulted for not making the Presidents Cup in Canada that year. The Cup was held about two months before he won at Disney that fall.)

PGA Tour winners playing the Presidents Cup in their homeland

 Year Country Home players who made the team
(bold indicates tournament winner that year)
 2011 Australia Robert Allenby, Aaron Baddeley, Jason Day, Geoff Ogilvy, Adam Scott
 2007 Canada Mike Weir
 2003 South Africa Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Tim Clark
 1998 Australia Stuart Appleby, Steve Elkington, Greg Norman, Craig Parry

Auspicious starts

PGA Tour rookie Zachary Blair had a first-hand look at Bae’s victory Sunday, as the 24-year-old Utahan was paired with the South Korean in the final group in the final round. The day didn’t go well for Blair, who shot 74 to fall to T-12, still not a bad week for the player making his second PGA Tour appearance after a T-40 debut at the 2014 U.S. Open.

The $117,600 Blair won will go a long way toward paying for his November wedding to Alicia Watkins. The couple was scheduled to wed in October, but their plans were changed when Blair surprised even himself by qualifying for the PGA Tour via the Web.com Tour Finals Series.

He was one of seven rookies making his first or second Tour appearance at the Frys.com Open. Three of them made the cut, including Byron Smith, who began the week as the third alternate and got into the field when Alex Prugh withdrew.   

Frys.com finish of players making their first or second start on Tour

 Player Previous starts Frys finish
 Whee Kim 0 MC
 Byron Smith 0 T-19
 Daniel Berger 1 MC
 Zachary Blair 1 T-12
 Tom Hoge 1 MC
 Carlos Ortiz 1 T-57
 Zack Sucher 1 MC

Silverado success

The Johnny Miller-redesigned North Course at Silverado Resort & Spa made a successful return to the PGA Tour. The par-72 venue played to a scoring average of 71.704, slightly harder that CordeValle did a year ago (-0.296 to -0.650). It was the eighth-toughest course the PGA Tour has used in the Fall Series since the format began in 2007.

At Silverado, just 56.44 percent of drives found the fairway, which would have ranked 12th on Tour in 2014. Its greens in regulation percentage was 66.14 percent, which would have been 32nd among the courses used a year ago. 

Toughest Fall Series courses: 2007-2014

 Course Tournament Scoring average to par
 Atunyote GC 2008 Turning Stone +0.968
 Conservatory Course 2008 Ginn Sur Mer +0.956
 Seaside Course 2013 McGladrey +0.255
 CordeValle  2010 Frys.Com +0.010
Annandale GC 2007 Viking  -0.020
Kuala Lumpur G&CC 2013 CIMB  -0.035
Annandale GC 2010 Viking -0.041
Silverado North 2014 Frys.com -0.296
Seaside Course 2011 McGladrey -0.429