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Y.E. Yang: Most Popular Man in South Korea

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Y.E. Yang: Most Popular Man in South Korea
(Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

Be honest, before this weekend had you ever heard of Y.E. Yang?
I had, but only once. Back on March 7, 2009 when Yang won the Honda Classic tournament by one shot over John Rollins in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. It was a meaningless win, unless you ask Yang—it was his first on the PGA Tour.
The next day I had all but forgotten Yang's name, and it stayed that way until Saturday. When Yang finished at 6-under and earned a spot in the final group, I recalled that victory while many were left asking, "Y.E. Who?"
Nonetheless, Yang remained an outsider until he reached the 72nd hole Sunday. All afternoon spectators and CBS announcers were left wondering when he would lose it, or when Tiger Woods would be the Tiger of old and blow by the little-known Yang.
That never happened, however, as we all know now. Yang became the first Asian-born player to win a major tournament and the first player to knock off Woods after Eldrick owned a 54-hole lead in a major.
Fourteen times before Woods had led after 54 holes and each one of those 14 times he took home the trophy. In fact, Woods has never trailed after 54 holes in any of his 14 major victories. So, it seemed a foregone conclusion he would take home the Wanamaker Trophy Sunday.
Unfortunately for Woods, his playing partner had other ideas.
Unlike those before him who had averaged four more shots per round when playing with Woods in the final pairing of the final round of a major, Yang stood tall Sunday. He outshot Woods time and again, finishing with a 2-under par 70 to Woods' 75.
Add a crazy eight for Padraig Harrington on the eighth hole Sunday and it adds up to an impressive three-shot victory for the South Korea native.
Yang's win is significant for two reasons: he has proven Asian-born golfers can and will be a threat in any major tournament and he broke Woods' streak of major wins as the frontrunner.
Either one would make for a huge story, but both in one win? Incredible story.
Yang did not just win a major either, he stood toe-to-toe with Woods and outplayed him in the final round of the PGA Championship. On the 72nd hole, when Woods, who sat one shot back, appeared to be in better position on his second shot, Yang hit the shot of his life.
The 37-year-old was unfazed by Woods' position across the fairway. Instead, he stepped up and crushed a hybrid 3-iron over a tree and bunker and within 12 feet of the cup, a shot reminiscent of one of Woods' best shots of his career when he finished 2nd at Hazeltine in the 2002 PGA Championship.
Woods, on the other hand, crumbled in the final round of a major for the first time.
Instead of taking control of the tournament and fending off any challengers, he played an overly conservative game, which led to his 3-over par 75, when even par would have at least earned him a playoff against Yang.
Instead of taking his sixth win of the year and avoiding a major-less season, Woods will have to wait until next year's Masters to earn his 15th major championship and continue his march toward Jack Nicklaus' 18th.
And what makes Yang's finish all the more impressive is his not-so-impressive start through 23 holes. After the fifth hole Friday, Yang sat at 5-over par, nine shots behind Woods at 4-under.
Over the last 49 holes, however, the two went in completely different directions. Woods would finish 1-under over that stretch while Yang was an incredible 13-under par en route to a three-shot victory.
All this from a man who took up the game at the age of 19.
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