A Korean influence at PGA Tour opener

By Doug FergusonJanuary 7, 2010, 6:25 pm
SBS Championship

KAPALUA, Hawaii – Y.E. Yang referred to it as a miracle – and he wasn’t talking about his PGA Championship victory over Tiger Woods.

Instead, he was surprised to hear in May that Seoul Broadcasting System had signed up to sponsor the season-opening tournament at Kapalua, the first time a South Korean company had agreed to sponsor a PGA Tour event.

“I have been wondering when a Korean company would be sponsoring a PGA event,” Yang said Wednesday through his interpreter. “I didn’t think it would be quite in the near future when I first landed on the PGA Tour. Miraculously this year, SBS has signed a 10-year deal to sponsor the opening event.”

The timing could not have been better, with Yang becoming the first Asian-born man to win a major.

Yang, a late bloomer from South Korea who didn’t take up golf until he was 19, had already qualified for the SBS Championship with a victory last March in the Honda Classic. He arrived on Maui as one of the biggest names in the winners-only field, at least as far as the sponsor and many of its clients are concerned.

During a Monday night party, when amateurs get to pick a player for the pro-am, Yang’s name wasn’t available, already set aside for the chairman of SBS and his group. The 37-year-old Yang can barely get from the range to the putting green to the clubhouse without being stopped for autographs and pictures.

For Yang, it feels like 2009 never ended, and for good reason.

During a whirlwind finish to an unforgettable year, he went from the World Cup in China to southern California for the Chevron World Challenge, then a brief stop at his home in Dallas before going to South Korea to be honored. He spent five days in his homeland before returning to Dallas – and a round of golf with former President George W. Bush – and then across the ocean to Maui.

“I wouldn’t say I’m in the best shape,” Yang said. “I’m fairly rested and ready to go on with this new season. However, it feels like it’s a continued season.”

It’s not the worst feeling, for sure.

Yang made history on so many fronts at Hazeltine in August. As well as being the first Asian to win a major, he did the unthinkable in the final round by rallying from two shots behind to defeat Woods, who had never lost a major when leading on the last day.

It was a boon for Asian golf and was part of a big year for South Korea. Beyong-Hun An won the U.S. Amateur, earning exemptions to the first three majors of the year, while Chang-won Han won the first Asian Amateur title and earned an automatic invitation to the Masters in April.

Even so, nothing was bigger than Yang taking down Woods – they call him “Tiger Killer” in Korea – and hoisting his golf bag over his head to celebrate on the 18th green at Hazeltine.

“He did it in style,” Geoff Ogilvy said. “He couldn’t do it any better than that, beating Tiger on the last day of a major. No one had managed to do it so far. Great to watch, cool character. Everyone on tour respects his game and was pretty excited that he is going to be around with us for a long time.”

The same can’t be said for Woods, at least not at the moment.

Even as the season gets under way Thursday in the warmth and beauty of Hawaii, optimism is checked by uncertainty about when Woods will return from a sex scandal that led him to take an indefinite break from golf.

Phil Mickelson also is skipping the season opener for the ninth straight year, waiting until San Diego to make his debut. That leaves only 28 players in the field, matching the tournament record for the smallest field.

For Yang, he is wistful about the absence of another player – K.J. Choi, who failed to win a PGA Tour event last year for the first time since 2004.

While Yang gets the attention as the first player from Asia to win a major, Choi blazed the trail. The year Yang won his first professional tournament, Choi was winning the first of his seven PGA Tour titles.

“At that time, K.J. was playing in a league of gods, you might say,” Yang said. “I was winning tournaments with Korean professionals, while K.J. was playing against the world’s top-ranked players. K.J. inspired a lot of players, not just myself, that Koreans can also play in the PGA Tour.”

Australia’s Ogilvy is the defending champion at Kapalua, a rare occasion when he is the only player in the field to have won on the Plantation Course. Only seven players are back for a second straight year at this tournament exclusively for last year’s PGA Tour winners.

It all creates a sense of uncertainty about 2010.

“This could be wide open,” Steve Stricker said. “I have a feeling Tiger will be back. He doesn’t need many events to get back to the top spot, whether it be in the FedEx Cup or money list or whatever.

“I hope that he’s back sooner than later. But it does have that feel to start the season that it’s wide open.”

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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.

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Rose leads Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs

By Associated PressDecember 15, 2017, 2:04 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose completed the final two holes of his second round early Saturday for a 3-under 69 and a one-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, who had a first-round 62, was among a quarter of the field forced off the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course after weather delays on Friday.

The Englishman, who bogeyed his last hole, had a two-round total of 13-under 131.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who completed his 64 on Friday, was in second place.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters. He has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 2, Donald Trump

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 1:00 pm

Even away from the White House, President Donald Trump generated plenty of headlines this year.

Trump’s first year in office didn’t dim his enthusiasm for the game, as he made splashy appearances at two big events, tweeted about golf to his more than 44 million followers, teed it up with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lexi Thompson, and fired a few eyebrow-raising scores. Logging more than 75 rounds since his inauguration, the 3-handicap has only bolstered his reputation as the best golfing president, particularly after his alleged 73 with Sen. Lindsey Graham.

None of his appearances created a bigger stir than when he attended the U.S. Women’s Open. Despite protests and calls for the USGA to move its premier women’s event from Trump Bedminster – the president reportedly threatened to sue – his weekend there went off without incident, as Trump watched the action and hosted players in his private box near the 15th green.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

Despite his controversial rhetoric on a variety of national issues, Trump has remained a staunch supporter of women’s golf, and he became the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.

An honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup, Trump also flew to Liberty National for the biennial team event, where he presented the trophy to the U.S. team and dedicated the victory to the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

In late November, amid tweets about the national anthem, Turkey, Egypt and Time Magazine, Trump announced that he was playing a round in South Florida with Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Yes, that too became a headline, just like everything else Trump did in 2017.

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

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