Perhaps the most curious decision International Presidents Cup captain Nick Price made on Wednesday was his choice to sit Sangmoon Bae, the lone home-country player, for the Thursday opening session.
The biennial matches are in South Korea for the first time in their 22-year history, so it made sense on paper for Bae to see some action on Day 1. Price, however, decided to keep Bae benched while his pre-determined partner Charl Schwartzel recovers from flu-like symptoms.
"It was certainly very tough, very tough [to sit Bae]," Price said when pressed on his decision.
"First of all, I didn't want to break up the other teams that had played so well together. The other thing is Moon hasn't played a lot of alternate shot. It was unfortunate because he and Charl played unbelievably well [in Tuesday practice, winning their in-group match]."
Two players from each team will have to sit in each of the first two days, which both feature a five-match session of two-man matches. So, the prospect of Bae sitting either of those days was out there. Korea will be somewhat represented on Thursday by Danny Lee, who will team with Steven Bowditch against Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson. Lee was born in Korea but moved to New Zealand when he was a child and considers it his homeland.
Price's decision seems even more odd knowing Bae won back-to-back Shinhan Donghoe Opens on the host course, Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea. Price stuck to his guns, choosing not to displace another team simply to fit in Bae. The same decision may loom again on Thursday if Schwartzel isn't feeling any better.
The International captain later tried to sound pragmatic, suggesting Bae was likely going to sit at least once during the matches anyhow thanks to rules changes negotiated by Price with the PGA Tour ahead of the Presidents Cup.
"The thing is everyone has to play twice [before singles]," Price said. "I looked at what [the U.S.] did with their pairings, and it was a tough one, but this is how we have it set up."
Bae, one of Price's two wild-card picks for the team of 12, could have given an instant spark to an International team that hasn't won the opening Presidents Cup session since 2005 and hasn't won an overall match since 1998.
The Frys.com Open winner from last season is also set to suspend his professional golf career after this week. All South Korean men must serve a 21-month term in the military between the ages of 18-35 unless they get a special exemption. Despite his best efforts, Bae was unable to secure a continued exemption while he pursues his career. Rather than fight in courts more or give up his Korean citizenship altogether, Bae will enter the military by the end of the year.
Needless to say, this moment could have meant a lot to him.
"I'll be very happy, and I'll be genuinely honored, especially because personally I'm going through a lot of things these days," Bae said when asked Tuesday about what it would mean to hear his name called on the first tee on Thursday. "It will mean a lot to me, so I'm determined to do my very best."
That moment will have to wait a day.
Jay Haas had to make a tough choice on Wednesday, leaving his son on the bench for the opening session of the Presidents Cup.
The U.S. captain left his son, Bill, out of the five-match Day 1 session of foursomes (alternate shot), along with Chris Kirk.
Before Haas and his assistants took to the stage to announce his teams and set the five matches with International captain Nick Price, he delivered the news to his son. It didn't go as well as hoped -- not for Bill, but for him.
“I thought it was going to be easier, but when I told him I got emotional,” said Jay Haas.
Even worse? Bill birdied four of his first five holes during the Wednesday practice session.
Jay Haas selected Bill with one of his first two captain's picks. To the unengaged, that might scream nepotism, but Bill Haas, who won the Humana Challenge earlier in the year, finished 11th in points, just outside of earning one of 10 automatic spots.
The captain wouldn't have faced this decision two years ago. Price lobbied to PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem to reduce the number of points in the competition from 34. In the end, Finchem settled on 30 points, eliminating one two-man match from each of the first four sessions of the biennial competition. That meant reducing the number of matches on Thursday and Friday from six each day to five. Had the rules remained the same, Bill Haas would've been guaranteed to play the first two days.
Despite sitting out on Thursday, Haas will certainly see action on Friday and Saturday. All 12 players on both teams must play in at least two of the four team-match sessions before the Sunday singles matches.