EDISON, N.J. - Sang-Moon Bae would dearly like to turn his tie for first at The Barclays into a victory Sunday. He would just as dearly love to make the World team for the Presidents Cup because the match against the United States will be held for the first time in South Korea, his country. It is the latter opportunity that he cannot control at all.
Bae, 29, like every other able-bodied male in South Korea between the ages of 18 and 35, must do mandatory military service of nearly two years. He has been rejected in a request for a waiver and been told that he must start soon, perhaps before the matches begin in October.
So he will have a lot on his mind when he plays in the final pairing today with Jason Day, with whom he shares first place at 11 under par at Plainfield Country Club. A victory in this first leg of the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup playoffs probably would put him inside the top 10 of eligible World players (the top 10 are assured spots on the team).
A good showing could influence captain Nick Price to make Bae a captain's pick. "I hope he's watching the TV now," Bae said with a smile, after he and Day each shot 7-under 63s Saturday.
And a letter from his nation's armed forces could scuttle the whole thing.
"I'm going to do the military service. Nobody is bothering me," Bae said, in English. "The Korean government knows. So that is [the] obvious thing.
"I have a little mixed emotion. I have to go, and I have only a few tournaments, and I will play really hard and work really hard. I'm really looking forward to tomorrow," said the man who has won more than $2 million on tour this season and is facing a military salary of $130 per month.
"Actually, I'm not thinking about it right now. My country situation, that is a really important thing," he said, "but really important [is] my position, right now, almost on top of the leader board."