KAPALUA, Hawaii – This week, I had the opportunity to spend an hour away from the course with two of last year's four major champions, Angel Cabrera and Y.E. Yang. It was a unique experience in the sense that Cabrera's first language is Spanish and Yang's is Korean, but they're both working hard on their English so we made the best of our time together.
Both are fascinating men and are rock stars in their respective countries but it might surprise you to know that Yang, who took down Tiger Woods at the PGA Championship, told me he was ranked seventh in the final poll for male athlete of the year in Korea. Cabrera also lost out on the honor in Argentina to a tennis player, so golf still has a ways to go in Asia and South America.
Cabrera is such a laid back guy. He told me that when he's home in his native country, he insists on taking two-hour naps every day but when he returns to action here in the states, his schedule won't allow it. When he was a teenager he was caddying and landscaping, among other jobs, to help put food on the table. At one point, he built a backyard stream for a family he knew from Cordova Golf Club. As fate would have it, one of the kids in that family now works for him as his worldwide golf manager.
Yang didn't take up golf until the age of 19 because his first dream was to be a bodybuilder. An injury shifted his focus to golf and the rest is now history. Yang is a rather shy man but perfectly complimented by his wife Jessica, who joined us for the conversation. She is truly the ying to his Yang.
As a young woman, she lived in Bolivia for 12 years and became fluent in Spanish. She can hold her own in a conversation with Cabrera. The two have great chemistry. They behaved like brother and sister, ribbing each other relentlessly about Korea and Argentina meeting in the upcoming World Cup.
It's only fitting that Cabrera and Yang were paired together in the first round of the SBS Championship. It was a comfortable way to start the new season.