YE Yang produces the unthinkable - sinking Tiger Woods

By Rex HoggardAugust 16, 2009, 4:00 pm
2009 PGA ChampionshipCHASKA, Minn. ' Sean OHair teed off first on a cloudy, Minnesota Sunday at the 91st PGA Championship and played without a noncompeting marker. Tiger Woods teed off last with one named Y.E. Yang, or so it seemed when the 110th-ranked player in the world became the only thing standing between the world No. 1 and Grand Slam No. 15.
Before he headed home for a restless nights sleep Saturday, the effusive Yang figured he was a 70-to-1 long shot ' a reference to Woods career Tour victories (70) and his own tally (one) ' to become the first player to run down Woods at a major championship on a Sunday. Truth is, Yang was probably closer to a 513-to-1 long shot, marking the spots where the two, respectively, began the year in the World Ranking.
Y.E. Yang makes eagle at the PGA Championship
Y.E. Yang reacts to his eagle chip-in on the 14th hole Sunday. (Getty Images)
It had to happen, or at least thats what Padraig Harrington and those who plow through buckets of range balls looking for answers tell themselves. Woods was 14-for-14 when entering the final round of a major with at least a share of the 54-hole lead. Yet as the regular suspects peeled away during a fevered final round the impossible, a 37-year-old Korean who took up the game at about the same age (19) as when Woods was taking over the game, became the perfectly placed.
Ive never seen a golfer put less pressure on himself to perform, said Brian Mogg, Yangs Florida-based swing coach. We talked all along that he might be the one to take (Woods) down because he has a rare gift to relax.
If Yang ' a Tour rookie who won this years Honda Classic ' was feeling the heat of history or the games greatest closer he never showed it.
The Minnesota masses wanted drama ' they got Y.E. Fleck.
Yangs three-stroke victory over Woods is not the greatest upset the game has ever seen, but behind Jack Flecks stunner over Ben Hogan at the 1955 U.S. Open and Francis Ouimets historic triumph over Harry Vardon and Edward Ray at the 1913 U.S. Open, its the leader in the clubhouse for this century.
Cats dont chase dogs, majors arent won on Fridays and Woods doesnt cough up 54-hole leads. Yet as a windy Sunday afternoon trundled on the impossible slowly became the inevitably, due in equal parts to Yangs steady play and Woods shaky putting.
By the time the days final two-ball reached the fifth hole Woods two-stroke lead was gone, the victim of Yangs birdie at the third and Woods three-putt bogey, his second consecutive three-pop on the hole, at the fourth. From there, Woods putting only got worse.
He missed birdie attempts inside 11 feet at the 10th (8 feet), 13th (11 feet) and 15th (11 feet) holes.
I just have to say terrible day on the greens, said Woods, who closed with a 75, his highest final round at a major since the 2004 U.S. Open. I either misread the putt or had bad putts. I did everything I needed to do except for getting the ball in the hole.
It was a missed 12 footer at the 17th that likely hurt the most, however. Trailing Yang by one shot, Woods tee shot caught a gust, sailed long and he failed to convert the par attempt.
From there Yang looked more like Woods than a rookie with a thin resume.
I wasn't that nervous, honestly, because it's a game, said Yang, who closed with a 70 for an 8-under total. It's not like you're in an octagon where you're fighting against Tiger and he's going to bite you or swing at you with his 9-iron. So the worst I can do was just lose to Tiger and probably go a few ranks down in the final scoreboard.
Charlie Wi, one of Yangs closest friends on Tour, called his mans putting stroke, beautiful, and, other than a late miscue at the 17th green, he was flawless on the greens. But it was a 52-degree wedge from 30 yards that ultimately secured Koreas first major championship.
From just short of the drivable par-4 14th green, Yang ran in his eagle try, taking the lead for the first time all week and igniting an otherwise stunned crowd. There were plenty of fist pumps the rest of the way, just none from Woods.
The two traded pars, and bogeys at No. 17, the rest of the way until Yang put an end to Woods quest for a fifth Wanamaker Trophy with a 3-iron hybrid from 210 yards that rolled to 8 feet for birdie at the last.
Woods, whose track record suggests he can be the cruelest of closers, could only watch as one of the circuits nicest guys took him apart.
Chaska, Minn., population 17,449 minus one silver keepsake, is the kindest corner of Americana. Nice folk? Oh sure, you betcha. And Yang is the perfect champion for one of the most polite points on the map.
When the general public gets to know him they are going to fall in love with him because he has a heart as big as this place, said Yangs caddie A.J. Montecinos as he clutched a Bible in the pocket of his bib.
For the second PGA Hazeltine National produced an unknown and utterly likeable champion. Rich Beem danced an awkward jig when he held off Woods at the 2002 PGA. On Sunday Yang hoisted his golf bag into the air to flash the South Korean flag and a wide smile.
The champion may have been unheralded, but this PGA began under sunny skies and with a leaderboard as bright as any major this year.
In order Vijay Singh, Lee Westwood, Lucas Glover, Harrington and Robert Allenby all flirted with the lead and ultimately failed.
Singh made a game of it before he left his belly putter in his locker and his title chances on Hazeltine Nationals bumpy greens, while Westwood came up short, again, and has assumed the role of European bridesmaid, posting his third third-place finish in his last seven majors.
Phil Mickelson made the cut on the number and nothing else. Lefty edged out just two players on Hazeltine Nationals greens for the week, both club pros, with 127 putts and Allenby, who has been driven to taking putting tips from Singh of all people, may have been the weeks best ballstriker but struggled to hole anything. And they say Augusta National is a putting contest.
The Heartbreak Slam was completed, however, when Harrington, fresh off his near miss at Firestone and rejuvenated, hit his tee shot into a pond, hit his third shot into the same pond (rinse, repeat) and almost hit his playing partner Henrik Stenson with another wayward attempt on Sunday at the eighth. Irish eyes winched when Harrington finally signed for a quintuple bogey-8, his third snowman in as many weeks and this one had nothing to do with a stopwatch.
I had been changing my chipping action a little and I probably was more into what I was doing rather than trying to get the ball up-and-down, said Harrington, who never recovered and finished tied for 10th after a closing 78.
But like Angel Cabrera (Masters), Lucas Glover (U.S. Open) and Stewart Cink (British Open), Yang was not a spoiler, just superior to everyone else thanks to a silky putter, steady driver and the perfectly relaxed demeanor for the most pressure-packed of situations.
Fifteen minutes before Yang teed off for his final round at this years Honda Classic he made a nervous phone call to Mogg.
I told him to get everything smooth and relaxed, Mogg said. Talk smooth, swing smooth, walk smooth.
On Sunday morning at Hazeltine National, Mogg texted Yang the same message, a simple lesson that had somehow eluded all that final-round road kill Woods had piled up over the years.
Who knew?
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