(Reuters) - Golfer Bae Sang-moon’s form plunged over the last few months after South Korea’s military ordered him to fulfill his national service obligations, but Internationals skipper Nick Price hopes he can turn it around in time for the Presidents Cup.
Bae, who has won twice on the PGA Tour and was granted U.S. residency in 2013, was charged in February with violating national service laws after failing to return home when his overseas travel permit expired.
The 29-year-old had hoped the courts would allow him to delay his military service and continue his career on the lucrative U.S. tour but last month the military’s case was upheld and Bae accepted the ruling.
With the country still technically at war with the North after the 1950-53 Korean War, all South Korean men between 18 and 35 must complete two years of military service.
The uncertainty clearly affected Bae’s form.
He missed eight cuts in 18 PGA Tour events since February, dropping outside the top 100 in the world and to 25th in the standings for the biennial Presidents Cup clash between the United States and an International team minus Europe.
He also suffered a back injury which forced him to withdraw from an event in Texas in March.
With only the top 10 qualifying automatically for Price’s team, the Zimbabwean will have to weigh up using one of his two captain’s picks on Bae.
That decision takes on an extra dimension given the Presidents Cup will be held in South Korea this October, the first time in Asia.
“He’s obviously had some really tough issues to deal with this year with regard to his service, and I think that’s been on his mind the past few months, and that’s probably affected his form quite drastically,” Price said of Bae.
The Oct. 8-11 competition will be played at Incheon’s Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea, a course where Bae has won the Korean Tour’s Shinhan Donghae Open for the last two years.
“I still haven’t spoken to him as to when he has to go and start his service,” said Price. “But I’d like to see him play a little better the next four or five weeks.”
Without a Korean player in the top 10, Price also has BMW PGA Championship winner An Byeong-hun and South Korea-born Danny Lee sitting just outside the automatic qualification places.
Even if his team does not include a home player, however, he has Tour veteran K.J. Choi as his vice captain.
“It would be sad if we don’t get a Korean on the team, It really would,” he added.
“But that’s a decision we’re going to have to make Sept. 8.”
Reporting by Peter Rutherford; Editing by Greg Stutchbury