NEW YORK — Now that Sang-moon Bae has completed his military service in South Korea, he is ready to get back to work. Bae already is practicing and plans to compete Sept. 14-17 in the Shinhan Donghae Open, a tournament co-sanctioned by the Korean PGA Tour and the Asian Tour.
After that, International captain Nick Price would love to see him make a detour to the Presidents Cup.
“I wish he’d come over and spend a week here,” Price said Monday at Liberty National, where the Presidents Cup begins on Sept. 28. “If Si Woo Kim makes the team, it might be a great thing for him to be here.”
But it goes beyond helping with any language barrier.
Price, in his third stint as captain, wants to bottle up the emotion from the team room after a one-point loss to the Americans two years ago in South Korea. The Americans rallied late when Chris Kirk made a 15-foot putt and Anirban Lahiri missed from 4 feet, and the outcome was decided by the final match. Bill Haas was 1 up over Bae when the hometown star chunked a chip and eventually conceded the match.
“There was so much empathy for Sang-moon Bae and for Anirban — the camaraderie, the team spirit, the emotion and the compassion came out for those two guys,” Price said. “Because they felt so bad. They felt like they let the whole International side down.”
Price said he told both of them they would never face pressure like that again, and that everyone on the team had gone through it before.
Looking back, Price compared that moment in South Korea to when Europe narrowly lost the Ryder Cup in 1983 at PGA National. It was still a loss, but Seve Ballesteros used that to show how close Europe was to ending nearly three decades of losing.
“The feeling and the emotion that went through the team room in 2015, I don’t think it will take much to pick that up again,” Price said. “This is a different team to any of the teams I’ve been on. These guys are all motivated. We’re tired of losing. There’s no doubt about it.”
The International team’s only victory was in 1998 at Royal Melbourne.
Price isn’t big on bringing in motivational speakers. He believes inspiration comes from the words of someone like Adam Scott, who has played on seven teams without ever winning, or other players who have been through the emotions of losing.
So imagine what kind of effect Bae might have on the team.
Bae left shortly after the Presidents Cup for 21 months of military service, in which he served as a rifleman in an Army infantry unit.
“I would love him to be here,” Price said. “I’d talk to the team about it and see what they felt about it, and then talk to the tour. You want people who have that emotional … who can just talk to the guys, whatever it is. You can’t (fake) emotion. The more the team shares their emotions, the better off you are.”
PLAYOFF HOPES: Hideki Matsuyama is the fifth player in the last five years to be the No. 1 seed going into the FedEx Cup playoffs.
Only one of those players, Jordan Spieth in 2015, has gone on to capture the FedEx Cup. In fact, Tiger Woods is the only other No. 1 seed to win the $10 million prize, in 2007 and in 2009. Woods failed to win as the No. 1 seed in 2013.
Then again, it helps to start with a high seed.
Only two players have won the FedEx Cup when starting the playoffs outside the top 20 — Billy Horschel (No. 69) in 2014, and Rory McIlroy (No. 36) last year. In both cases, each won a playoff event and the Tour Championship.
BETWEEN THE SHOTS: Brooks Koepka and Ricky Elliott are like most players and caddies who try to keep the conversation away from golf between shots.
And that goes for any shot, in any situation.
Koepka considers the 8-iron he hit on the 15th hole at Erin Hills his best shot during the final round of his U.S. Open victory. The pin was all the way back and to the right, into the wind. The shot landed pin-high and settled about 10 feet away for birdie.
“It was pretty impressive … probably one of the best shots I’ve hit all week, to be honest with you,” he said.
And the conversation before that?
“We were talking about a vacation, where we wanted to this year, right before we hit that shot to the back right pin,” Koepka said. “We had talked about Vietnam, maybe. We usually do a vacation kind of October, November, go over for a week somewhere in Asia. We were trying to figure out the best place to go, because we’ve already been in Thailand, been to Bali. Where else do we want to go? So that was a conversation that we were having before we hit that shot.”
“He handed me the club and we hit it,” Koepka said. “He says, ‘Good shot.’ And then we continued the conversation.”
PLAYOFF START: Dominic Bozzelli’s rookie season is over, and he accomplished at least one goal. He made it to the FedEx Cup playoffs, even if he won’t be playing in them. Bozzelli was in contention late on a Sunday twice this year, at the CareerBuilder Challenge (fifth place) and the Valspar Championship (tied for third).
But he had a recurring shoulder injury and has decided to withdraw from The Northern Trust, which starts Thursday in Old Westbury, New York. Bozzelli finished at No. 115 in the FedEx Cup. His doctor has recommended he sit out the playoffs to let the shoulder heal instead of facing full surgery after the season.
Also sitting out is Scott Piercy, who hasn’t played since the Travelers and had hoped to return at The Northern Trust. He is at No. 85 with no guarantee of staying in the top 100 to advance to the TPC Boston next week. A year ago, Chad Campbell was at No. 85, missed the cut in the opening event and dropped to No. 100.
Masters champion Sergio Garcia (No. 22) won’t start the playoffs until next week.
Brandt Snedeker (No. 64) and Adam Scott (No. 66) also are not playing. Snedeker is out to let a rib injury heal, while Scott is home in Australia to be with his wife for the birth of their second child. They will slip out of the top 70 who advance to the third playoff event in Chicago.
DIVOTS: Golf is returning to Warwick Hills, north of Detroit, next year as part of the PGA Tour Champions schedule. The tour announced Tuesday that the Ally Challenge will be played in September 2018. Warwick Hills in Grand Blanc, Michigan, hosted the Buick Open for 45 years through 2009. Ally Financial signed a three-year agreement as the title sponsor. … Leona Maguire of Ireland has won the Mark H. McCormack medal for the third straight year as the leading female in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. Maguire will be a senior next year at Duke. … Mary Meeker, a general partner at the venture capital firm of Kleiner Perkins in California, has accepted an invitation to become an independent director of the PGA Tour policy board.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Henrik Stenson (No. 9) was the first player from the top 10 in the world to win the Wyndham Championship since Hal Sutton won in 2000 when he was No. 4 in the world.
FINAL WORD: “I’ve won three times and played in a Ryder Cup, and this is probably as nervous as I’ve been.” — J.J. Henry, who birdied his last hole at the Wyndham Championship and finished 125th in the FedEx Cup by one point.