As lone Korean, Bae Sang-moon falters late before home crowds at Presidents Cup

It wasn’t quite the Hollywood ending that he might have envisioned, as Bae Sang-moon, the only South Korean in the field at the Presidents Cup, faltered down the stretch on Sunday with the potential victory for his International Team on the line.

The United States defeated Bae and the International Team 15 1/2 to 14 1/2 at Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea in Incheon, west of Seoul, getting to the minimum points needed for the victory right on the number.

With a dozen singles matches scheduled, the Cup came down to the anchor match between Bae, a Presidents Cup rookie, and Bill Haas, son of the U.S. captain, Jay Haas, playing in his third Cup.

When the penultimate match ended with South African Branden Grace beating Matt Kuchar 2 & 1, the score was tied at 14 1/2. Bae was trailing Haas 1-down, after making a key par putt at the 16th.

At the par-3 17th, Bae put his tee shot into a greenside bunker, while Haas reached the green. Bae made a great escape to about a foot of the cup and had his par.

When Haas also picked up his par at the 17th to stay 1-up with one hole remaining, Bae lost his chance to beat the American. As part of rule changes for this year’s Presidents Cup, the PGA Tour eliminated sudden-death playoffs for singles matches that end all square after 18 holes, meaning the best Bae could do was to win the 18th hole and get a half point.

That half point would have tied the score at 15 apiece and would have resulted in only the second tie in the Presidents Cup history.

It wasn’t meant to be, however, as Bae botched his third shot, a chip from the front of the green that skidded up toward the green only to roll back down toward the dismayed player.

Bae finally got to the putting surface in four shots but later conceded the hole and the match to Haas, as the Americans celebrated their ninth Presidents Cup victory in 11 tries.

Bae later blamed nerves for his late miscues, but insisted he could live with them.

“I knew that (my match could determine the Cup) at the 16th, and I was pretty nervous,” he said. “That’s why I hit that really bad chip over there (at the 18th). I didn’t play well. But (I) feel bad right now, but it’s all right.”

His Sunday adventures notwithstanding, Bae had been one of the strongest players for the International Team. Captain Nick Price benched Bae for Thursday’s foursomes with his practice partner, Charl Schwartzel of South Africa, sidelined with an illness. Bae made his debut on Friday with Danny Lee, a Seoul-born New Zealander, in the four-ball, and made a clutch putt at the 18th for a 1-up victory over Jimmy Walker and Rickie Fowler.

Bae and Hideki Matsuyama then got a half point against Bill Haas and Matt Kuchar in Saturday’s morning foursome. The two Asians went back out again in the afternoon four-ball and destroyed Walker and Chris Kirk 6 & 5.

Bae wasn’t nearly as dominant against Haas in the singles on Sunday. He managed to win just two holes and the late miscues cost the International Team a chance at a tie.

Yet Bae said he only takes away positive memories from the Presidents Cup, which likely was his last competitive event before he begins his military duty.

“I want to say thank you so much for the Korean fans and our team,” he said. “It was a really, really cool week.” (Yonhap)