(Reuters) - South Korean Bae Sang-moon made a fast start, then overcame strong winds and a mid-round wobble to clinch his maiden PGA Tour title by two shots at the Byron Nelson Championship in Irving, Texas on Sunday.
The 26-year-old, an 11-time champion on various professional tours in Asia, held his nerve in difficult conditions on a firm, fast-running layout to close with a one-under-par 69 at the TPC Four Seasons Resort Las Colinas.
Bae, who had charged four strokes clear with 11 holes to play, fell back into a tie for the lead with overnight pacesetter Keegan Bradley after bogeying the 15th but recovered with a birdie on 16 to post a 13-under total of 267.
”I am very, very happy,“ a smiling Bae told CBS Sports after sinking a three-footer for par on the 18th green and thrusting both arms skywards in jubilation. ”I had a great time.
“Actually I was a little nervous the last hole but that was not a big thing. I did it. This course was really tough and the winds were very strong but I did very well this week.”
American Bradley, the 2011 winner who had led after the first three rounds in pursuit of a fourth PGA Tour victory, had to settle for second place after battling to a 72.
“I am disappointed but I will get over it,” said Bradley, who took initial control of the tournament after opening with a blistering course record 60.
“There is some good that I can bring out of this but I am happy for Moon. He played really good today.”
Former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel of South Africa, who missed several birdie putts from between eight and 15 feet as 40mph winds gusted across the course, was a further stroke back at 10 under after closing with a 68.
Bae, who topped the 2011 Japan Golf Tour order of merit after winning three times, was a stroke behind Bradley overnight but benefited from a two-shot swing at the third to edge one ahead.
While Bradley bogeyed the hole after pushing his tee shot right into water, the South Korean recorded the first of five birdies he piled up on the day as he drained a 26-footer.
Bae tightened his grip on the tournament with three consecutive birdies from the fifth, sinking a 22-footer, a five-footer and then two-putting at the par-five seventh to forge four strokes clear at 16 under.
However, Bae stumbled badly at the ninth where he pulled his tee shot way left behind trees before hitting his second into water right of the green on the way to a double-bogey six.
Out in two-under 33, he led Bradley by two strokes at 14 under, the American having sunk a 14-footer to save par at the ninth.
Bae’s advantage was briefly cut to one after he found the right rough off the tee and a bunker with his approach to bogey the 10th but Bradley faltered with a three-putt bogey at the 11th to slip two behind the Korean.
As the gusting crosswinds continued to wreak havoc for the players, Bae succumbed to a two-shot swing at the par-four 15th to drop back into a tie for the lead with Bradley.
The Korean bogeyed the hole after lipping out from five feet after the American had made his only birdie of the day by coaxing in an 18-footer.
Bae immediately rebounded with a birdie at the par-five 16th, hitting a spinning wedge to six feet and calmly sinking the putt. Bradley horseshoed out with his birdie attempt from just four feet to hand the Korean a one-stroke advantage.
Bradley’s title bid effectively ended at the tricky par-three 17th, where he bogeyed after overshooting the green off the tee.
Two ahead playing the difficult par-four 18th, Bae split the fairway with his drive, then struck a brilliant six-iron to 18 feet to set up a rock-solid par.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Gene Cherry/Greg Stutchbury