SEOUL, South Korea — A fired-up Bae Sang-moon claimed his second OneAsia title after the confident 23-year-old shot a closing five-under-par 67 to win the SK Telecom Open by three strokes from good friend Kim Dae-hyun.
Bae, who finished with a 22-under total of 266, proudly donned Korean golf’s Red Jacket after a nervous Kim struggled to an error-strewn 73 in fierce winds at Sky 72 Golf Club.
Korean legend KJ Choi, who turned 40 on Wednesday, finished one behind Kim after matching Bae’s best-of-the-day 67 over the 7,241-yard Ocean Course.
Japan Tour star Kim Kyung-tae, the world’s third-highest ranked Korean behind YE Yang and Choi, carded 71 to finish fourth on 13-under, one ahead of Michael Hendry of New Zealand, who shot 69.
The energetic Bae, who became OneAsia’s first Korean champion at last year’s Korea Open, led for the first time at the eighth and held on to record his seventh stroke play title since turning pro in 2004.
“I feel great. My putting was perfect this week. It was an intense day and I had a lot of fist-pumps, probably 10,” laughed Bae, who has topped the Korean Tour Order of Merit for the past two years. “Dae-hyun is very nice and he played well this week. I feel lucky.”
Bae, who also won the title in 2007 at a different venue, bogeyed hole two, but birdied the sixth to get back to within three strokes of the big-hitting Kim, who was seeking a wire-to-wire win.
However, on the par-five seventh, Kim racked up a double-bogey after losing his ball following a wayward tee-shot. Pouncing on the chance, Bae sank a 15-footer to draw even, and then took the outright lead on eight after Kim missed a short par putt.
Bae soared clear with birdies on 10 and 12 and also picked up a shot at the par-five 13th, but Kim eagled the 596-yard hole to get back within two. Bae birdied 15 to go three ahead again.
When Kim sank a massive birdie putt on 16, it looked likely he would draw within one as Bae faced a 20-footer just to save par, but the leader duly sank the crucial putt to stay two ahead with two to play. “The putt on 16 was my most important putt of the day. I was really scared then,” Bae admitted.
266 – Bae Sang-moon (KOR) 68-65-66-67
269 – Kim Dae-hyun (KOR) 66-64-66-73
270 – KJ Choi (KOR) 70-66-67-67
275 – Kim Kyung-tae (KOR) 70-70-64-71
276 – Michael Hendry (NZL) 70-69-68-69
278 – Kim Do-hoon 752 (KOR) 67-71-68-72
279 – John Huh (USA) 74-65-68-72, Andrew Tschudin (AUS) 68-68-69-74
280 – Simon Yates (SCO) 68-69-72-71, Chung Sung-han (KOR) 69-69-68-74
281 – Choi Jin-ho (KOR) 69-70-70-72, Lee Seong-ho (KOR)) 66-72-70-73, Hwang Jae-min (KOR) 66-72-67-76
282 – Jang Dong-kyu (KOR) 75-67-71-69, Michael Wright (AUS) 71-71-72-68, Jung Ji-ho (KOR) 71-71-68-72, Park Sang-hyun (KOR) 70-70-69-73
283 – Kang Kyung-nam (KOR) 72-70-71-70, Mo Joong-kyung (KOR) 71-70-70-72, Henry Epstein (AUS) 66-72-72-73
284 – Cho Byung-min (KOR) 72-70-68-74, Kevin Na (USA) 70-71-69-74, Lee Boo-young (KOR) 69-70-70-75
285 – Hong Chang-kyu (KOR) 72-70-71-72, Kang Min-sung (KOR) 71-70-70-74, Cho Min-gyu (KOR) 69-70-74-72, Bang Doo-hwan (KOR) 73-69-68-75, Kim Dae-sub (KOR) 72-71-67-75, Scott Arnold (AUS) 73-68-68-76
Kim, bogey-free for the first two rounds, dropped a shot at the par-five 18th to complete an erratic round that featured one double-bogey, four bogeys, three birdies and an eagle.
The 22-year-old, ranked the Korean Tour’s longest hitter for the past two seasons, admitted to suffering from nerves for the first time in his career.
“I’m still a little nervous. All day I felt nervous. I’ve never felt like this. I always lose to Sang-moon,” said the soft-spoken Kim, who has emerged as one of Asian golf’s most exciting talents.
“It all changed on the seventh hole, when I lost my ball and had a double-bogey. I lost a three-shot lead right there and the momentum changed.”
Choi, who won the title in 2003, 2005 and 2008, played with Bae and Kim for the last two rounds, but the seven-time PGA Tour winner graciously conceded to two of Asia’s top talents.
“The fact both Sang-moon and Dae-hyun played well in these conditions shows you just what special talents they are,” said Choi, who passed on golfing tips when he hosted the pair at his home in Texas last December.
“I tried my best, played well and I have no excuses. They outplayed me and I take my hat off to them.”