Yang's brilliance seals PGA victory
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2009 US PGA Championship | Round Four | 17 Aug 2009
While countless shots have been struck during the week of the 2009 USPGA Championship, two shots in particular will be looked back on as defining the eventual outcome. Both would come during the dramatic closing stages of today’s final round.
The chip in eagle today at the par four 14th by Y.E. Yang saw Tiger Woods behind for the first time all week. The margin was then one in the favour of Yang and stayed that way until the par four 18th hole where the South Korean would produce arguably one of the greatest shots in all of major championship golf.
With Woods beautifully positioned in the right half of the fairway and Yang blocked from direct access to the flag by a tree protecting the left side of the fairway, the one shot advantage the Korean took into the final hole appeared vulnerable. Then came the shot that is likely to resonate around the golfing world for years to come.
With 209 yards to the hole and facing a left to right hurting breeze and a flag cut in the back left of the green, Yang hit a shot that he might not necessarily have been trying to hit but one that landed a foot or so from the hole and stopped 8 feet away. Realistically Yang’s target with his 3 wood may well have been the centre of the green but he took it up over the tree, over the front left greenside bunker and to the astonishment and wonderment of all, had all but sealed the deal.
The pressure then fell on Woods to produce something even more spectacular but although he hit a quality shot it finished just off the left edge of the green and from there his chances of making birdie were all but gone.
When Yang holed his putt it was over and all Woods could do was try and contain the final winning margin to two. It was not to be as Woods would miss his par save and at 8 under, Y.E. Yang had won by three.
Woods’ frustration on the greens began at the very first hole when he missed from six feet after a brilliant approach. He would go on to miss many makeable birdie or par saving putts throughout his final round and coupled with a game that appeared to lack the sharp edge it had earlier in the week he was not the dominant figure he often appears especially on day four of a major.
Admittedly the fluky wind conditions on the final day made a demanding golf course even more so and most were struggling to maintain their positions, especially on the back nine where many rounds and hopes came unstuck.
“I hit the ball so much better than obviously my score indicates, said Woods. “I hit it great all day and made absolutely nothing. I just have to say a terrible day on the greens. And I had it at the wrong time. I either misread the putt or had bad putts. I didn’t make anything except for the 14th hole. I think it was the only putt I made all day. I had plenty of looks.”
“Y.E. played great all day. I don’t think he really missed a shot all day, added Woods. “He just made that mistake at 17. But other than that, he hit it great all day. And it was a fun battle. Unfortunately, I just didn’t make the putts when I needed to make them.”
Yang gave a hint of what was to come when he hit a superb approach at the 3rd to move to 7 under. The margin was then just one but the pair would soon be tied at 7 under when, for the second day in succession, Woods three putted the 4th. They had then opened up a one shot gap on Harrington, who was playing in the group ahead, but four holes later, Harrington’s chances disappeared in a watery grave at the par three 8th when he took a quintuple bogey.
With Harrington out of calculations, the tournament effectively developed into a two man race with Woods and Yang trading blows for much of the next few holes. The pair made the turn tied at 6 under, three ahead of Lee Westwood, Soren Kjeldsen and Lucas Glover. Woods appeared to steal an important break when hit two brilliant shots to the monster par five 11th and moved ahead with his birdie there but immediately gave it back when he flew the green with his second from the left rough at the 12th and took bogey.
Then would come the short par four 14th. Yang was just short with his tee shot while Woods flew his into the front trap. Woods was first to play and hit a quality long bunker shot to 6 feet. Yang then hit the chip and run across the green into the hole for eagle and had moved ahead for the first and last time.
Try as he may Woods was unable to penetrate the unflappable Yang and even when there appeared a slight chink in the Korean’s armour when he three putted the 17th, Woods also made a mistake with a bogey of his own, despite a tee shot that looked perfect in the air. And so it was to the 18th where Yang’s brilliance secured the victory.
For Yang, who is in his second season on the PGA Tour, it is hard to comprehend the riches he will earn as the first Asian major champion. He has set the new standard for Asian golf and with the likes of Ryo Ishikawa, Danny Lee and others to follow it may be that a second major title for Asia will follow before too long. It will also provide the game in places like China, Korea, Japan and elsewhere a great boost of self belief.
For so long, Korean women has shown their golfing brothers the way in terms of contending and winning at the elite end of the game but now a little bit of balance has been introduced.
“If you look back with Asian golf, I think it’s back in ’96 with the women’s golf where Se Ri Pak won the U.S. Open,” said Yang. “That really created a huge boom in Korea golf-wise where everybody started picking up clubs instead of tennis racquets and baseball bats, and with KJ Choi winning his first tournament in the oh-so-tough PGA tour, that also increased the popularity of golf.”
“I hope this win would be as – if not as significant, something quite parallel to an impact both to golf in Korea as well as golf in Asia so that all the young golfers, Korean and Asian, would probably build their dreams and expand their horizons a bit with this win.”
Lee Westwood and Rory McIroy tied for 3rd with Lucas Glover alone on 5th position.
The leading Australasian would go to Brendan Jones and Robert Allenby although Jones will take little solace for that honour. Jones had an 18 foot eagle attempt at the 7th which would have taken him to 4 under. He missed but at 3 under he was well placed for a big finish.
Jones safely negotiated the demanding 8th, 9th and 10th holes but just when his length might have served him well on holes such as 12 and 14, his round fell apart. Six bogeys in his last eight holes saw him slip to 24th and while it was by far his best finish in four major championships it was a case of what might have been.
Allenby, who started tournament so well with a round of 69 before consecutive rounds of 75, fought back on the final day for a round of 72 to finish tied with Jones in 24th position. Geoff Ogilvy was 43rd, Michael Sim 51st, Richard Green 60th, Nathan Green 63rd and David Smail 67th.