Take That, Tiger

Golf Pga Championship

South Korea's Yang, A 20-1 Underdog, Becomes First To Beat Woods When He Leads Major After 54 Holes

First Asian To Win A Men's Major

August 17, 2009|By Teddy Greenstein | Teddy Greenstein,Tribune Newspapers

CHASKA, Minn. - - When the final book on Tiger Woods is written, these two names will need to be highlighted: Ed Fiori and Y.E. Yang.

Not Sergio Garcia. Not Phil Mickelson. Not Ernie Els. At least not yet.

Fiori came from behind to beat Woods on the final day at the 1996 Quad City Classic, and Yang did the unthinkable Sunday, overtaking Woods in the final round of a major, the PGA Championship.

Wearing all white, the ghost-like figure shot a 2-under 70 to become the first player from Asia to win a men's major and the first to beat Woods after he had a 54-hole lead in a major. Woods had been 14-for-14 as a closer in majors.

Consider this: Yang started the day as a 20-to-1 underdog, according to an online sports wagering site. Woods was a 2-to-9 favorite, roughly the same as Secretariat in his prime against your pet cocker spaniel.

"You never know in life," Yang said through his interpreter, Ryan Park.

No, you don't. Woods led or was tied atop the leader board until the 14th hole, a driveable par 4 of 301 yards. Yang knocked in his eagle chip from some 80 feet to take the lead.

He never relinquished it. Woods put himself in position to make birdies at Hazeltine National but couldn't buy one on the greens.

He spent much of the round muttering to himself in frustration. He had only three one-putts.

"I made absolutely nothing," he said. "I had a terrible day on the greens. ... I hit the ball great off the tee, hit my irons well. I did everything I needed to do except get the ball in the hole."

In shooting a 3-over 75, Woods made just two birdies. He didn't really crack a smile until he graciously congratulated Yang on the 18th green.

"Y.E. hit it great all day," Woods said. "It was a fun battle."

The tournament was still in doubt until Yang's hybrid approach on 18. With 210 yards to the pin from the first cut of rough, he fired at the flag, and his ball settled 8 feet from the cup.

Woods, trailing by one, could have chipped in for a birdie that would have forced Yang to make his putt.

Yang, the 37-year-old native of Korea, doesn't speak much English. But despite a limited vocabulary, his politeness comes across.

Asked in English to describe his emotions that moment, he replied: "I think: Tiger, miss the chip-in please."

Maybe even pretty please.

Woods did miss, and Yang knocked home the birdie for an eventual three-shot victory.

"He's a world-class player and he had nothing to lose," said his caddie, A.J. Montecinos. "He said: I'm not nervous."

Montecinos, 35, who played for coach Eddie Payton at Jackson State and first caddied for Yang at Q-school in 2007, said his boss is a delight.

"He's very low-key and easy to get to know," Montecinos said. "When the general public gets to know him, they will fall in love with him. He's got a heart as big as this place."

Yang didn't take up the game in earnest until he was 19. Since 2002, he has won in Korea, Japan and China, and claimed his first PGA Tour title in March at the Honda Classic.

And now, the man who entered the PGA Championship ranked 110th in the world is a major winner.

"It just means the world right now," Yang said through his interpreter. "It hasn't really sunk in, but I do know the significance of it."

Who?

Name: Yong-Eun Yang

Ht: 5-9; Wt: 195 pounds

Birth: Jan. 15, 1972 in Jeju-do, Korea

Home: South Korea

Other PGA win: 2009 Honda Classic on March 7.

Notable: Has won on PGA Tour, European Tour and Japan Golf Tour.

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