It's been a long journey for Sangmoon Bae, but he's one round away at the 2018 Albertsons Boise Open from securing his PGA Tour future.
Bae returned to the PGA Tour in October 2017, coming back into the world of professional golf after a two-year term of conscripted service in the Korean military. Most all able-bodied men have to serve at some point, and, after a series of deferrals and delays, Bae was forced to complete his time.
It couldn't have come at a worse time. Bae was the only Korean player on the Internationals when South Korea hosted the Presidents Cup. Bae was a bright spot on an International team that had its closest call in winning the biennial competition since a draw was declared in the South African twilight in 2003.
When Bae was done in the military, he returned to special status fundamentally created for his particular situation. He wasn't injured, so he didn't have a Major Medical Extension but rather a similar arrangement for unique family or personal circumstances. He was given 27 events to earn 365.25 FedEx Cup points in order to regain his full PGA Tour status.
In his first eight events, Bae didn't cash in the seven events with a cut. (He finished T-61 in the inaugural no-cut CJ Cup at Nine Bridges.) Then, he scored a T-15 finish at Pebble Beach, notching 51 precious FedEx Cup points to bring his total one-third through his 27-event extension to 56 points. It wasn't a turning point. Bae made eight more starts on the PGA Tour, earning just 14 more FedEx Cup points in three made cuts, ending the season with a 45th-place effort at the Wyndham Championship.
While Bae didn't fulfill his Special Medical Extension, and he still had 10 events remaining on it for next season, the 32-year-old did get into the Web.com Tour Finals on the back of his Special Medical Extension. And it's been during this four-event stretch with the fate of 25 PGA Tour cards hanging in the balance that Bae has rediscovered his game. A modest T-35 effort in Columbus wasn't a bad start, but a T-6 finish at the DAP Championship near Cleveland made it almost a certainty he'd get back to the PGA Tour.
Now, through 54 holes at Hilcrest Country Club, Bae is T-1 and looking to potentially take over the Web.com Finals 25 money list lead. Were he to win on Sunday and hang on to the money lead through next week's Web.com Tour Championship, Bae would be fully exempt next season -- no reshuffles -- and get into The Players.
“It has been a while [since he's had a lead], throughout my military service and this year,” Bae said Saturday, according to PGATour.com. “I am really happy to see my name on the leaderboard.”
The two-time PGA Tour winner might see his name on a trophy come Sunday.