Whats Next for YE Yang

By Rich LernerAugust 17, 2009, 4:00 pm
2009 PGA ChampionshipCHASKA, Minn. ' Michael Yim, son of a Korean diplomat, was pondering the possibility that he might need to use the tools of his fathers profession to talk his suddenly very famous client out of an idea hes in love with.
 
I want to open an indoor driving range in Dallas, where I just moved with my family, Y.E. Yang told me as we sat for an interview after hed won the PGA Championship. It would be like the ones we have back in Korea. Dallas gets so hot so this would be a good place.
 
Will you name the range, Y.E. Yangs Indoor Driving Range, with small lettering underneath that reads, the Man Who Beat Tiger? I asked.
 
Y.E. Yang hoists the Wanamaker Trophy
Y.E. Yang hoists the Wanamaker Trophy after his PGA Championship win. (Getty Images)
His interpreter relayed the thought, and Yang broke into that big smile of his.
 
I dont think so, Yang said politely. I was thinking about a Korean word that means harmony.
 
Yim, Yang's agent, has other ideas but concedes that it is Yangs money and naturally he can do what he wants with it.
 
Yang instantly becomes Asias biggest golf star with his triumph at Hazeltine National. Yim said the victory was one of the greatest achievements in Korean sports history. Others include: wrestler Jung-Mo Yeng winning the nations first gold medal at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal; Se Ri Pak taking the U.S. Womens Open and the McDonalds LPGA Championship in 1998; and South Korea beating Cuba to win the World Baseball Classic last year.
 
I inquired about the size of the windfall that should come to Yang.
 
Its so unfortunate. He won at such a bad time for the economy. The value of his win is way up here, Yim said, holding his hand as high as he could above his head. But the market is down here, and now he bent over and put a hand near the ground. The challenge for me is going to be to bring that market up to meet this incredible win.
 
Yang is scheduled to take this coming week off. It wont really be a week off, Yim said with a laugh. There will be a flood of media requests and possibly a trip to Carlsbad, Calif., for the TaylorMade National Sales Conference.
 
Yang will then play The Barclays outside New York, which like Los Angeles, has a large Korean population.
 
Theres also a verbal agreement between Yangs camp and a Korean bank sponsoring a tournament in October back in his homeland.
 
We may have some leverage, Yim said with a wry grin.
 
I traveled to Korea with Pak after she won the two majors 11 years ago. She was overwhelmed with parades, appearances at the presidential palace, visits to schools and sadly, a visit to the hospital because of exhaustion.
 
Yang could face a similar reception when he returns in a few months. As Yim spoke his phone kept buzzing and he was expecting a call from his countrys leader at any moment. This could be the president of Korea right here, he would say, only to find it was someone else calling to congratulate or ask about an interview.
 
Half his life ago Yang, now 37, did not conceive of this. He didnt even play golf until he was 19.
 
He didnt know anything about the sport, Yim explained. He was into working out and lifting weights.
 
But then he fell down a flight of stairs and tore his ACL. He couldnt lift anymore.
 
A friend recommended he work at a local driving range, Yim said. The range had a room where Kim actually lived for a few months.
 
He became what they call in Korea a semi-pro. And when he found out you could get paid for playing, Yang thought, Ill try that.
 
The rest is hard-to-fathom, stuff-of-movies history.
 
Yang is the son of a farmer, one of seven children. Hes now married with three kids of his own.
 
Hes laid back, said Yim. He has a good sense of humor. Its a shame that people dont really see that side of him because of the language barrier.
 
Yim likes the funny faces and goofy jokes. Yangs different than his countryman, K.J. Choi.
 
K.J. is all about walking the right path, said Yim. It shows in his routine. He prays before his round, works out and goes to the practice tee. Hes quite regimented.
 
Yang, on the other hand, likes to have fun and maybe a beer. If Yang has a late tee time, he might sleep until 10 and then have breakfast. He doesnt want to waste energy.
 
Most golfers are so picky, Yim explained. They can be difficult to deal with. But Y.E. is kind of what you call an Average Joe. And that caught me off guard. Even now I cant capture what just happened.
 
Yangs easygoing, but confident, too. He doesnt let anything bother him, Yim said. That was apparent Sunday, chipping in at 14 and hitting the 3-hybrid that will be recalled as one of the greatest shots of this or any year.
 
He played with the attitude that he had nothing to lose. If I win, its a bonus, said Yang.
 
The sight of Yang lifting the golf bag over his head is priceless. Colleague Steve Sands joked that it looked like a guy hoisting the Stanley Cup.
 
I asked Yang if he could describe in one word, in English, what hed just done.
 
He smiled, and said, Unbelievable.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - PGA Championship
  • Getty Images

    Berger more than ready to rebound at Travelers

    By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:54 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Daniel Berger hopes that this year he gets to be on the other end of a viral moment at the Travelers Championship.

    Berger was a hard-luck runner-up last year at TPC River Highlands, a spectator as Jordan Spieth holed a bunker shot to defeat him in a playoff. It was the second straight year that the 25-year-old came up just short outside Hartford, as he carried a three-shot lead into the 2016 event before fading to a tie for fifth.

    While he wasn’t lacking any motivation after last year’s close call, Berger got another dose last week at the U.S. Open when he joined Tony Finau as a surprise participant in the final group Sunday, only to shoot a 73 and drift to a T-6 finish.


    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


    “It was one of the best experiences of my professional golf career so far. I feel like I’m going to be in such a better place next time I’m in that position, having felt those emotions and kind of gone through it,” Berger said. “There was a lot of reflection after that because I felt like I played good enough to get it done Sunday. I didn’t make as many putts as I wanted to, but I hit a lot of really good putts. And that’s really all you can do.”

    Berger missed the cut earlier this month to end his quest for three straight titles in Memphis, but his otherwise consistent season has now included six top-20 finishes since January. After working his way into contention last week and still with a score to settle at TPC River Highlands, he’s eager to get back to work against another star-studded field.

    “I think all these experiences you just learn from,” Berger said. “I think last week, having learned from that, I think that’s even going to make me a little better this week. So I’m excited to get going.”

    Getty Images

    Rory tired of the near-misses, determined to close

    By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:46 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Rory McIlroy has returned to the Travelers Championship with an eye on bumping up his winning percentage.

    McIlroy stormed from the back of the pack to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, but that remains his lone worldwide win since the 2016 Tour Championship. It speaks to McIlroy’s considerable ability and lofty expectations that, even with a number of other high finishes this season, he is left unsatisfied.

    “I feel like I’ve had five realistic chances to win this year, and I’ve been able to close out one of them. That’s a bit disappointing, I guess,” McIlroy said. “But at least I’ve given myself five chances to win golf tournaments, which is much more than I did last year.”


    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


    The most memorable of McIlroy’s near-misses is likely the Masters, when he played alongside Patrick Reed in Sunday’s final group but struggled en route to a T-5 finish. But more frustrating in the Ulsterman’s eyes were his runner-up at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, when he led by two shots with eight holes to go, and a second-place showing behind Francesco Molinari at the BMW PGA Championship in May.

    “There’s been some good golf in there,” he said. “I feel like I let Dubai and Wentworth get away a little bit.”

    He’ll have a chance to rectify that trend this week at TPC River Highlands, where he finished T-17 last year in his tournament debut and liked the course and the tournament enough to keep it on his schedule. It comes on the heels of a missed cut at the U.S. Open, when he was 10 over through 11 holes and never got on track. McIlroy views that result as more of an aberration during a season in which he has had plenty of chances to contend on the weekend.

    “I didn’t necessarily play that badly last week. I feel like if I play similarly this week, I might have a good chance to win,” McIlroy said. “I think when you play in conditions like that, it magnifies parts of your game that maybe don’t stack up quite as good as the rest of your game, and it magnified a couple of things for me that I worked on over the weekend.”

    Getty Images

    Sunday run at Shinnecock gave Reed even more confidence

    By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:08 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – While many big names are just coming around to the notion that the Travelers Championship is worth adding to the schedule, Patrick Reed has been making TPC River Highlands one of his favorite haunts for years.

    Reed will make his seventh straight appearance outside Hartford, where he tied for fifth last year and was T-11 the year before that. He is eager to get back to the grind after a stressful week at the U.S. Open, both because of his past success here and because it will offer him a chance to build on a near-miss at Shinnecock Hills.

    Reed started the final round three shots off the lead, but he quickly stormed toward the top of the leaderboard and became one of Brooks Koepka’s chief threats after birdies on five of his first seven holes. Reed couldn’t maintain the momentum in the middle of the round, carding three subsequent bogeys, and ultimately tied for fourth.


    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


    It was a bittersweet result, but Reed is focusing on the positives after taking a couple days to reflect.

    “If you would have told me that I had a chance to win coming down Sunday, I would have been pleased,” Reed said. “I felt like I just made too many careless mistakes towards the end, and because of that, you’re not going to win at any major making careless mistakes, especially on Sunday.”

    Reed broke through for his first major title at the Masters, and he has now finished fourth or better in three straight majors dating back to a runner-up at the PGA last summer. With another chance to add to that record next month in Scotland, he hopes to carry the energy from last week’s close call into this week’s event on a course where he feels right at home.

    “It just gives me confidence, more than anything,” Reed said. “Of course I would have loved to have closed it out and win, but it was a great week all in all, and there’s a lot of stuff I can take from it moving forward. That’s how I’m looking at it.”

    Getty Images

    Koepka back to work, looking to add to trophy collection

    By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 8:53 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Days after ensuring the U.S. Open trophy remained in his possession for another year, Brooks Koepka went back to work.

    Koepka flew home to Florida after successfully defending his title at Shinnecock Hills, celebrating the victory Monday night with Dustin Johnson, Paulina Gretzky, swing coach Claude Harmon III and a handful of close friends. But he didn’t fully unwind because of a decision to honor his commitment to the Travelers Championship, becoming the first player to tee it up the week after a U.S. Open win since Justin Rose in 2013.

    Koepka withdrew from the Travelers pro-am, but he flew north to Connecticut on Wednesday and arrived to TPC River Highlands around 3 p.m., quickly heading to the driving range to get in a light practice session.

    “It still hasn’t sunk in, to be honest with you,” Koepka said. “I’m still focused on this week. It was just like, ‘All right, if I can get through this week, then I’m going to be hanging with my buddies next week.’ I know then maybe it’ll sink in, and I’ll get to reflect on it a little bit more.”


    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


    Koepka’s plans next week with friends in Boston meant this week’s event outside Hartford made logistical sense. But he was also motivated to play this week because, plainly, he hasn’t had that many playing opportunities this year after missing nearly four months with a wrist injury.

    “I’ve had so many months at home being on the couch. I don’t need to spend any more time on the couch,” Koepka said. “As far as skipping, it never crossed my mind.”

    Koepka’s legacy was undoubtedly bolstered by his win at Shinnecock, as he became the first player in nearly 30 years to successfully defend a U.S. Open title. But he has only one other PGA Tour win to his credit, that being the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open, and his goal for the rest of the season is to make 2018 his first year with multiple trophies on the mantle.

    “If you’re out here for more than probably 15 events, it gives you a little better chance to win a couple times. Being on the sidelines isn’t fun,” Koepka said. “Keep doing what we’re doing and just try to win multiple times every year. I feel like I have the talent. I just never did it for whatever reason. Always felt like we ran into a buzzsaw. So just keep plugging away.”