It always seams to be that the unlikeliest of accomplishments in sports are done by the unlikeliest of competitors. If someone told you on Wednesday that Tiger Woods would be leading the fourth and final major of the year through 56 holes, only to be upset down the stretch, who would you assume the foe would be. Phil Mickelson? Padraig Harrington? Lee Westward? Steve Stricker?
How about Y.E Yang?
Before you broke out in laughter, you would probably ask one question. Who is Y.E Yang?
He’s only the 110th ranked player in the world. A guy who missed the cut at The Masters and didn’t even give it a go at the U.S or British Opens. After winning The Honda Classic in March, Yang didn’t see the top ten again until three weeks ago at the RBC Canadian Open.
Even on Thursday and Friday, Yang didn’t seam like anything more than an afterthought. It was only after a Saturday round of 67 did he appear to have a shot at the title. But even then, could you really see Y.E Yang doing something that no one has ever done before? Could you really see Y.E Yang knocking Tiger Woods out of the lead on Sunday of a major championship?
The shock on the front nine on Sunday wasn’t that Yang was playing so well, it was that he was hanging in with Tiger Woods. So many times, we have seen golfers succumb to the pressure of playing with Woods on Sunday. It is unbelievable intimidating to be standing next to one of the games greatest players, knowing that his goal over the next four hours is to beat you.
But it didn’t bother Yang. He matched Woods par for par, even creeping up on him with a birdie at four. A bogey at five was followed by eight consecutive pars. Often times for players of Yang’s stature, mistakes on a major Sunday can have a domino effect. One can lead to another and before you know it, you’re out of contention.
Not Yang. Unfazed by the one mistake, he kept chugging along.
Much like his round on Saturday, Woods stood even for most of the day. He bogeyed two holes on the front nine and pared the rest. But round number four for Woods had a definite feel of frustration. He was missing birdie putts left and right and mercifully leaving to door open to come catch him.
On Saturday, the round for Tiger had more of a ho-hum feeling. Fifteen pars felt like an invitation for someone to come out and play with him on Sunday. But when Woods wanted to stop playing games, his putter couldn’t close the door. A few made birdie putts and Woods could have made the turn comfortably, instead the round was spent waiting for the other shoe to drop.
On fourteen, Y.E Yang’s destiny began to sprint towards the door that Woods had left open. It was there where Yang hit the shot of the tournament when he chipped a shot for eagle. Suddenly Y.E Yang was leading the PGA Championship with four holes to play.
This looked to have awoken a Tiger who had been asleep all day. Woods’ birdie on 14 was only his second of the round and fourth of the weekend. But, surprisingly so, that was it for Tiger. Two pars and a last chance boggy on 17 made his final bogey on 18 a mere footnote. Yang had already won to tournament with a final hole birdie.
In many ways, Yang was fortunate. Fortunate that Woods didn’t take advantage of a boggy on 17, instead matching it. Fortunate that Tigers’ putter convinced itself that the tournament was in the bag no matter what. Fortunate that the others pursuing the top never really made a serious bid.
But with all Yang’s good fortune, immense credit is due. He showed that shooting the ball all over the course is not a prerequisite to playing with Tiger on a major Sunday. He showed that even the most unlikely of contenders can, every once in a while, shock any player on tour.
Even Tiger Woods.
Next Week: The Wyndham Classic- Not much of a field in this one as the tour revs up for the FedEx Cup playoffs in two weeks. U.S Open champion Lucas Glover headlines the group. Glover was in contention at the PGA before bogeying five of the final thirteen holes.