The 37-year-old South Korean shot the low round of the day at Hazeltine National, a 67 that brought him to 6-under 210 and earned him a date with the most famous athlete on the planet, and golfs most intimidating closer, in Sundays final round.
With Woods, hes won 70 times now, and Ive won only won once, Yang said through an interpreter. So its sort of 70-to-1 odds. So I might as well go for broke as well.
This is the first time in his career that Yang will play with Woods during a round, and a smile creased his face when he was asked about it.
Ill try not to go over par, he said.
Yang started the day at 1 under, six strokes behind Woods, who practically had his name already engraved on the trophy. But Yang was bogey-free on the front nine, then overcame a bogey on No. 13 with birdies on 14, 15 and the signature 16th to creep into contention.
Y.E. played just a great round of golf today, Woods said after shooting a 71 to take a two-stroke lead over Yang and Padraig Harrington. Shot a 67 and got himself in the final pairing. Itll be a fun day tomorrow. Hopefully we can get it in.
They may not have played together before, but Yang and Woods have history.
Yang held off a charge from Woods and Retief Goosen to win the HSBC Champions tournament in Shanghai in 2007. The two-stroke victory over Woods made Yang just the second South Korean to win a European tour event, joining K.J. Choi.
Yes he did, Woods recalled Saturday. Y.E. played great.
But he did so without having to see that famed red shirt, and the huge galleries and media hordes that it draws, looming over his shoulder on every shot.
It will be an entirely new experience for him on Sunday. He will be under the worlds microscope, and the target of a Tigers glare.
More than anything, its just the amount of distractions inside the ropes, Woods said. Theres a lot of movement, a lot of cameras, a lot of media. There are a lot of people moving and it can get you at times.
Yang certainly didnt take the easy road to the sports biggest stage. He didnt even start swinging a golf club until a friend brought him to the driving range at age 19. Even when the bug hit him, he had to fulfill a military commitment, spending 18 months as a guard at the South Korean Naval port.
He turned professional in 1996 at age 24, but didnt qualify for the PGA Tour until 2007.
This season hasnt been a cake walk, either. After picking up his first career PGA Tour victory at the Honda Classic in March, Yang finished 74th at the CA Championship at Doral, then missed the cut at the Transitions Championship and the Masters.
Yang has been much better lately, with a fifth-place finish at the Buick Open and an eighth-place finish at the Canadian Open included in his last three outings.
Like anybody else, I got a bit excited after my first win, Yang said. It probably took a toll on my focus. I probably pushed myself a bit too hard; probably was a bit too aggressive. I sort of wanted to taste victory again.
He will have the chance again on Sunday, and this one would be so much sweeter.
If Saturday was any indication, Yang should relish the spotlight. When he rolled in a putt to birdie No. 15, the Hazeltine crowd roared. Yang responded by waving both arms skyward, playfully asking for more.
Buoyed by the support, Yang birdied three straight holes and finished at 5-under for the day. When Padraig Harrington missed a long par putt on 18 that would have brought him to 7 under, Yang sneaked into the final pairing.
Its a good feeling when you hear your name from the crowd and when they cheer for you, Yang said. Its much better than playing alone. So I try to be a bit responsive. It certainly helps to boost your morale a bit.
He wont be alone on Sunday as he fights history. Woods has never lost a major when leading going into the final round.
You never know in the world of sports and the game of golf, Yang said. So just try to make every shot, just focus on every shot that I have. And then tomorrow, I may end up inside the top 10, top three and even win the PGA Championship.
You never know.