S. Korean golfers off to solid start at Quicken Loans National

July 30, 2015
Bae Sang-moon of South Korea (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

Sang-Moon Bae of South Korea (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

By Brian Han

Although the Quicken Loans National tournament won’t feature a star-studded field — except for the likes of Tiger Woods, Justin Rose and Rickie Fowler — it will host many others including a handful of South Korean golfers who are off to a solid start.

Seung-Yul Noh leads his countrymen so far after his opening round 3-under 68 on Thursday that included five birdies and two bogeys.

His primary strength came from his length off the tee, but his inability to convert his drives into greens in regulation stopped him from scoring any lower. Noh hit 11 of 18 greens during the round.

There was a little bit of luck on his side as well. Noh hit into a greenside bunker on the par-4 15th and blasted out a 21-yard shot that dropped in for his final birdie of the day.

Veteran K.J. Choi had considerably less distance off the tee with which to work — almost 40 whole yards — and actually hit less fairways than Noh, but his accuracy into the greens led to a 2-under 69. His lone bogey came on the 555-yard par 5 fifth where he three-putted after a well-played hole.

Choi’s highlight came on the 185-yard par 3 ninth hole when he hit a blistering 6-iron within three feet for an easy birdie.

South Korean-born New Zealander Danny Lee, who won his first career PGA Tour event at the Greenbrier Classic earlier this month, had a handful of brilliant shots including an approach shot on the par-4 second that he almost holed out from 139 yards out after a perfectly placed drive.

Lee finished with a 4-under 67.

Every round from here on out will be bittersweet for Sang-Moon Bae who is gearing up to enter the South Korean military soon. He will most likely play out the rest of the regular season according to Golf Digest’s Tim Rosaforte and is positioned to qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs based on his point total.

The 29-year-old had a roller coaster of a round that pretty much sums up his 2015 season.

Bae made seven birdies, but offset his score with six bogeys to put him in the clubhouse with a 1-under 70. He was 4-under through the first seven holes by holing many key putts just under 10 feet, but as his approach shots started to stray, the rest of his game followed.

South Africa’s Retief Goosen and Japan’s Ryo Ishikawa were tied at 8-under for the lead after approximately half of the players had finished their rounds.