After getting to his ball, Bae hit a high-arcing shot over the trees in front of him, clearing the green and apparently going into the water—nobody seemed to know for sure where it went. He took a drop in deep grass after conferring with a rules official.
"I don't know, where is it?" Bae was able to joke Sunday after his first PGA Tour victory.
Bae shot a closing 1-under 69, even after that double bogey and another bogey on the next hole while squandering all of his early lead. He finished at 13-under 267, two strokes ahead of Keegan Bradley.
The 26-year-old South Korean now has a win in the United States to go with his 11 international victories on the Korea, Japan and Asian tours. After a par at the 18th hole, Bae got a congratulatory hug from the widow of the tournament's namesake.
"It's something I've always dreamed of, winning on the PGA Tour," Bae said. "It was surreal to have Mrs. (Peggy) Nelson there and with all the history. ... I was in awe, actually, so almost I didn't know how to react. ''
Bradley was trying to become the Nelson's first wire-to-wire winner since Tom Watson in 1980. Bradley set the TPC Four Seasons course record with an opening 60, a round in which he had two bogeys. He shot a 2-over 72 in Sunday's windy conditions.
"I'm pretty disappointed, but Moon played very well," Bradley said. "I just didn't play great today, but I hung in there. I chipped away. ... When I made that putt on 15, I was pretty confident that I was going to win."
Four birdies in a five-hole stretch on the front nine gave Bae a four-stroke advantage in the final group. Bradley made some nice par saves, but was hurt by a three-putt from 17 feet at the 305-yard 11th hole. He finally got even at No. 15 with his only birdie of the day. He made a 17-footer that had just enough to get into the cup, while Bae missed a par from inside 6 feet.
After Bae sank a 5-foot birdie at the par-5 16th, Bradley had a shorter putt on the same line, but it horseshoed around the hole and didn't fall. He then hit his tee shot over the green at the 171-yard 17th.
Charl Schwartzel, the 2011 Masters champ, shot a 68 to finish third at 10 under. Justin Bolli shot a bogey-free 65 for the best round of the day and matched his career-best finish of fourth. Morgan Hoffmann (66), Martin Kaymer (68) and Scott Piercy (72) were a stroke back at 272.
Players wore red ribbons during the final round in memory of Ken Venturi, the 1964 U.S. Open champion and longtime CBS golf analyst who died Friday.
With winds gusting at times to about 40 mph and dried-out greens, the scoring average was 71.8 on Sunday. That was two strokes higher than Thursday's first round, which was played after 1 1/2 inches of rain. Players were able to lift, clean and place their balls the first two days.
"Feels a little like the British Open without rain," Kaymer said of the conditions Sunday.
Bae won $1.2 million, nearly matching his PGA Tour career earnings of $1.6 million in his 42 previous starts. He tied for second last year in the Transitions Championship after getting into a four-man playoff. He is the fourth South Korean-born player to win on the PGA Tour, joining K.J. Choi, Y.E. Yang and Kevin Na.
At No. 14, Bradley drove into the left rough between some trees and missed the green before chipping to 5 feet to save par. On the par 3 just before that, his tee shot settled behind the green, but he hit from there to 8 feet and made that putt as well.
Bradley scrambled for pars on the first two holes, and gave up the lead at the 502-yard third hole when his drive went left into the water. He bogeyed and Bae rolled in a 27-foot birdie putt.
Bae was 16 under and four strokes ahead after birdies on Nos. 5-7.
After the differing results on the short putts at No. 16, Bae watched anxiously after hitting his tee shot at the par-3 17th. When the ball landed on the front edge of the green fronted by water, he bent his knees and leaned backward in obvious relief.
"When my iron play came back in the latter part of the round, I had confidence," Bae said. "On that shot on 17, I knew it was short, and the wind pushed it over to the right, and I was happy and relieved that it turned out OK."