Sang-Moon Bae is off to another great start at the Northern Trust Open. The next step is a better finish.
Bae played bogey-free Friday on another gorgeous day at Riviera for a 5-under 66, giving him a one-shot lead over Aaron Baddeley and Robert Garrigus going into the weekend.
Baddeley, who hasn’t won since Riviera three years ago, birdied his last four holes for a 65. Garrigus played in the afternoon, when it’s a little more difficult to make putts, and managed just fine with a 67.
Bae was at 9-under 133.
The 27-year-old South Korean was tied for the lead going into the weekend at Riviera last year. Bae struggled to a 76 in the third round and never got back into contention.
“It was really, really good experience, and I learned a lot,” Bae said. “I improved a lot from last year.”
He wound up winning the Byron Nelson Championship a few months later for his first PGA Tour victory.
Patience surely will be required at some point over the weekend on what has shaped up as one of the best weeks of weather at Riviera — an abundance of sunshine and only a trace of wind. Despite what would appear to be pristine scoring conditions, no one has reached double digits under par this week, a testament to one of the best golf courses on the PGA Tour.
“It’s a strong course, especially when it’s dry and firm like it is,” Baddeley said. “If you miss it out of position, it’s really hard to get the ball up-and-down. Today was good, because I made a couple good saves but coming in, I had some good looks and made them.”
And while Bae is in the lead, the tournament remains wide open, with 22 players separated by only five shots.
One of them is Dustin Johnson, who led after the first round and opened with two quick birdies. Johnson never made any more progress, however. He dropped shots on the 12th and 15th holes to negate a few more birdies, and missed several good looks inside 12 feet. He had to settle for a 70 and was three behind at 6-under 136.
“I played pretty solid today, just hit a couple of bad drivers on the back. But that’s going to happen,” Johnson said. “But I still had a lot of really good looks at birdie and just couldn’t capitalize on any of them.”