Y.E. Yang did more than just win the PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club today, he proved that the invincible Tiger Woods, is a mortal after all.
Tiger Woods had, up until today, never lost the lead of a Major Championship after holding the over-night third round lead. He was a perfect 14 out of 14, until today.
Paired together in the last two-some, Yang and Woods played good, solid golf on the front nine, on a course that was becoming increasingly difficult. Up until Sunday’s final round, Hazeltine, while by no means easy, had not really bared its teeth.
Combining difficult pin placements with gusting winds which blew in a different direction than the first three days, Hazeltine was not only the longest course in Major Championship history, but today it became one of the hardest. The lowest round of the day would be a 2 under par 70.
Yang made up his two shot deficit on the front nine, shooting an even par 36 while Woods was 2-over par. Even though they were still tied on the 14th tee, one had the feeling that it was only a matter of time until Yang would capitulate, and Woods would win his fifth PGA.
Both players hit good drives on the reachable par-4 14th hole. Yang was just short of the green and Woods was in the greenside bunker. Tiger hit his bunker shot 12 feet below the pin. And then Yang did to Tiger what Tiger has been doing to everyone else for 14 years. He chipped in for an eagle two. Woods made his birdie putt to leave him a stroke behind, but the pendulum had firmly swung.
The last three holes at Hazeltine are perhaps the three hardest closing holes in Major Championship golf. Both players parred the 16th and made bogeys on the 17th.
Faced with a shot of 208 yards from the first cut of rough on the left side of the 18th fairway, Yang hit the second best shot of the Championship, a high, fading, 3 utility to within 8 feet of the cup. Woods’s approach drew a little too much and he was unable to hole his chip shot, before Yang sank his birdie putt to cap a 3 stroke victory.
37-year-old Y.E. Yang became the first male Asian player to win a Major Championship, which is in and of itself a wonderful accomplishment. That he did it by beating the greatest ‘closer’ the game has ever known makes his achievement even more remarkable.
Once again golf proved that there is no such thing as a “sure thing” and that we are humans playing an esoteric sport that will not be mastered. Tiger Woods has made us believe that he was immune from the failings of other golfers in some situations. Today he proved that while he is as close to perfect as we have ever seen, even he is human.
A former weight lifter, the South Korean is in his second year on the PGA Tour (this is his second win this year having won the Honda Championship earlier in 2009). The self taught Yang will now become an icon, and it is so richly deserved. He did not play professionally until he was 32-years-old having been in essence a club professional in South Korea and New Zealand until he joined the Asian Tour in 2004. Today at Hazeltine, he became part of golf history.
In every way, Yang put the YE into YE-S! You can.