YE Yang the biggest major surprise of all this season

By Randall MellAugust 16, 2009, 4:00 pm
2009 PGA ChampionshipCHASKA, Minn. ' Golfs been waiting for a different kind of player to look Tiger Woods in the eye and knock him out in the final round of a major championship.
 
Who could have foreseen a player this different?
 
Who could have foreseen Y.E. Yang doing what he did to Woods Sunday at the PGA Championship?
 
Who in their wildest dreams would have imagined that the first player to wrestle away a final-round lead from Woods would be a man who didnt pick up a golf club until he was 19 years old?
 
By that age, after all, Woods had already won five of his six U.S Juniors and U.S Amateurs.
 
Who would have thought the man to wreck Woods perfect record with a 54-hole lead in a major would be so removed from tournament golf on his 21st birthday that he was guarding naval ships while serving an 18-month stint in the South Korean Army?
 
Woods won the Masters when he was 21.
 
Yang introduced himself Sunday as the wildly, brilliantly and wondrously different man golfs been waiting for.
 
Hes a guy who didnt break par for the first time until he was 22 and yet will be forever remembered for breaking Woods in the majors.
 
Yang, 37, will forever be South Koreas version of Francis Ouimet, the former American caddie who took down legendary Brits Harry Vardon and Ted Ray at the 1913 U.S. Open in one of the greatest upsets in history. His victory with Woods in the field at the European Tours HSBC Champions Tournament in China in 2006 makes him golfs only Tiger Tamer.
 
This different kind of man won Sunday at Hazeltine with a different kind of gameplan.
 
Ranked 110th in the world, Yang figured he had nothing to lose, but he wasnt going to lose trying to do too much the way so many players have against Woods.
 
I dont consider myself as a great golfer, he said through a translator. Im still more of the lower-than-average PGA Tour player. So my goal today was to just hit at least even [par], not go over par. I think probably thats the different mindset.
 
Yang needed more than one of the greatest shots ever hit in a major to ruin Woods 14-0 record with final-round leads in majors.
 
He needed a pair of them.
 
With a chip-in from 60 feet at the 14th for eagle, Yang took his first lead.
 
With a magnificent 3-hybrid from 210 yards dead-arrow straight over a giant oak, he sealed his victory at the final hole. He stuck that scary shot straight over the flagstick tucked tight left on the 18th green. He did it with nerveless precision to set up a closing birdie and 2-under-par 70.
 
Ive been around golf a little while, and Ive been around some great players, but Ive never been around a more tough mental competitor, said A.J. Montecinos, Yangs caddie. Just the fact that nothing affects him, whether he makes double or triple [bogey], hes just like, `No problem.
 
It was a Sunday of staggering sights.
 
Who would have thought Woods could miss so many putts with a chance to win in the final round of a major? Who would have thought hed be the guy blowing it with the pressure ratcheting up? Woods bogeyed the final two holes and shot 75, two shots higher than any other round hes posted when leading after 54 holes.
 
Woods clumsily missed a 3-footer for par at the fourth hole and never found his famed clutch putting stroke. His 33 putts made him feel like he beat himself as much as Yang beat him.
 
Its both, Woods said. I was in control of the tournament most of the day. I was playing well, hitting the ball well. I made nothing.
 
Woods gave credit to Yang, too.
 
He did all the things he needed to do at the right time, Woods said.
 
That Yang emerged the winner is a poetic ending to this crazy major championship season.
 
In a year of spoilers, Yangs the ultimate spoiler.
 
Angel Cabrera spoiled Kenny Perrys happy ending at the Masters, Lucas Glover did the same to Phil Mickelson and David Duval at the U.S. Open, and Stewart Cink following suit at the British Open by beating Tom Watson.
 
Woods will be remembered as the final favorite to fall in the years Heartbreak Slam.
 
Yangs victory will go down as wonderful storybook stuff given his history.
 
He didnt pick up the game until a friend took him to a driving range in South Korea when he was 19. He fell in love with the sport and thought he could make a decent living as a club professional. He never saw a future where he would become good enough to beat Woods the way he did at the HSBC Champions Tournament in China three years ago, but that changed with his growing confidence. Paired with Retief Goosen in China, he didnt beat Woods head-to-head, but he started imagining himself doing that. The visions got stronger after he won The Honda Classic in March.
 
I sort of visualized this quite a few times, playing against the best player, if not one of the best players in the history of golf, playing with him in a final round in a major championship, Yang said. Always sort of dreamed about this.
 
Yang walked through that dream in one remarkable Sunday at Hazeltine.
 
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