Bae fired a seven-under-par 63 to share the third-round lead with PGA Championship winner Jason Day of Australia in the opening event of the four-tournament FedExCup playoffs, which pay the overall winner a $10 million prize (£6.
“It’s mandatory in South Korea,” Bae, 29, told reporters about his upcoming two-year military service. “I have a little mixed emotion.
“Actually, I have a really tough situation right now,” added the South Korean, who won his second PGA title in the 2014-15 season opening Frys杭州桑拿会所, Open.
“I have to go back. So that is a few weeks later. So I just want to play good golf this week and really want to play Presidents Cup in my country.”
The Presidents Cup match play competition will be held in Asia for the first time with the International team hosting the United States in Incheon, South Korea, starting on Oct. 8.
Bae, 25th on the International standings, needs a strong finish on Sunday and next week to jump into the top 10 and qualify for the team. Otherwise, he will have to be named as one of Captain Nick Price’s wildcard picks to compete.
“I hope to play well tomorrow and Mr. Nick Price can pick me up,” said Bae.
Day matched Bae with a 63 of his own to share a one-stroke lead on 11-under-par 199 at Plainfield Country Club after a warm, sunny day that proved ideal for scoring.
Double Masters winner Bubba Watson, the halfway leader, shot 67 to fall one shot behind.
Two shots from the lead were Sweden’s Henrik Stenson (67) and Americans Ryan Palmer (65) and British Open champion Zach Johnson, who bogeyed the last for 67.
Day and Bae played together and seemed to inspire each other as they alternated birdies through the first five holes after Bae started the string at the first.
“Sang-moon (got) off to a good start, and he hit it great all day. We were kind of feeding off each other, drafting off each other today,” said Day.
The top 100 players on the FedExCup points list following The Barclays qualify for next week’s Deutsche Bank Championship near Boston, with 70 players advancing to the BMW Championship outside Chicago.
The leading 30 move on to the season-ending Tour Championship at East Lake in Atlanta.
(Reporting by Larry Fine; Editing by Andrew Both)