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Yang the History Man

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Iain Carter | 17:18 UK time, Monday, 17 August 2009

"It had to happen some time," was the phrase that paid after the final major of 2009 because it could be attached to whichever of the outcomes one felt was the more significant.

As Y.E. Yang completed his stunning victory over Tiger Woods what was the bigger question? Was it that an Asian born man had at last won a major, or was it that Woods had at last surrendered a final day lead?

Which is more significant, the impact of Yang's win on the Far Eastern golfing market or the news that Woods' game is susceptible to final day pressure?

It's hard to know and in all honesty it is difficult to predict what will be the fallout from this extraordinary 91st PGA Championship.

YE Yang's victory is shown on a big screen in Jeju, near Seoul in his native South KoreaWoods expressed surprise that it was Yang that finally made the breakthrough for Asian men in the game's biggest events, but wasn't at all shocked that a major title is heading East to uncharted territory.

"If anyone thought it would have been a Korean player, people probably would have suspected it to be KJ Choi because he's played well for such a long period of time," Woods said.

"We've had a lot of great players over the years, starting with Jumbo (Ozaki) and Isao (Aoki) has come close. It was just a matter of time."

Korean and Japanese players dominate the women's tour and Yang's victory can serve as a springboard within the men's game.

It was a thrilling win. Yang went out and won the Championship, chipping in at the fourteenth for eagle and still under pressure compiled a superb birdie at the last to seal victory.

It was storybook stuff that is sure to inspire many a youngster to take up the game.

This will simply add momentum to an already healthy golfing bandwagon and despite Yang's heroics long term the biggest player in this process is likely to be Japan's 17-year-old Ryo Ishikawa.

On his PGA debut, the youngster completed all four rounds with the closing 18 holes played in the company of Phil Mickelson.

Ishikawa leads an army of photographers and media wherever he goes. "I've come to expect it with Ryo," Mickelson said. "He's a wonderful player and obviously very popular in Japan. And he handles throngs of people around him all the time.

"He does a great job. He's a classy guy," Mickelson added after Ishikawa's 72 left the Japanese player at eight over par.

Mickelson, the world number two, has never been able to do what Yang did to the man who heads the world rankings. Indeed, no leading player has been able to beat Woods when he's been in contention on the final day of a major.

Each time Woods has been runner up it has been to a relative outsider. Last year it was to Trevor Immelman at the Masters and Zach Johnson the year before. He was tied second at the 2007 US Open behind Angel Cabrera and second to Michael Campbell in 2005.

And most pertinently at Hazeltine in 2002 it was the unheralded Rich Beem who ultimately played him into second place.

But in all those instances Woods didn't surrender a lead going into the final round. That 14 for 14 thing is done and dusted now, players know he can be overhauled.

Woods was bitterly disappointed to lose his chance to win a record-equalling fifth USPGA and 15th major here but he'll be equally upset to lose a record that haunted the rest of the golfing world.

But don't be surprised to see him bounce back stronger at next year's majors. Already his record coming back from knee surgery is nothing sort of astonishing with five PGA Tour wins. In all three American majors he contended, only at Turnberry did he have a shocker.

Woods' putting in the final round at Hazeltine was what let him down. He had 33 stabs with the short stick and for once failed to make the ones he usually does on the last day of a big tournament.

So it's his first blank year in the majors since 2004, but it would be a huge surprise if he doesn't add to his tally next year.

2009 was the year of the underdog, the coulda, shoulda, woulda season. Kenny Perry could have won the Masters, Mickelson should have won the US Open and Tom Watson would have won the Open but for events on the final green.

Had those three seen the job through it would have been entirely appropriate for Woods to round off the major season with victory.

Instead, with Cabrera, Lucas Glover and Stewart Cink having taken their places in golfing history, it seems spot on that the USPGA title should head in an unlikely direction, even to a man ranked 110 in the world.

Yang did it in style too. Great game, golf, isn't it?


  • Comment number 1.

    Iain, it wasn't just Tiger Woods who suffered on the greens on the final day. All the field seemed to be struggling in the final round, and I suspect a lot of it had to do with the rain that they'd had the previous night. Woods can blame his putting, but I think he failed because he was ultimately too conservative, waiting for his opponents to fall away, one by one, as they have done in the past. He was four shots clear after 2 rounds and ended up losing by 3. As for Yang, I'm delighted for him. The shot he hit to 18 was unbelievable.

    By the way, do you have any comment on Woods's poor etiquette? His swearing, spitting and throwing clubs is well-documented, but yesterday we were treated to the sight of him leaving the green before Yang had putted out, and then on the final green when he knew that Yang had 2 putts for it, he didn't do the gracious thing and let Yang putt out last. It's just poor and, irrespective of the circumstances, it looked terrible. And I'm a big Tiger fan, too.

  • Comment number 2.

    for tiger to blame only his putting an ignore the other mal-functioing areas of his game means he can only be in denial...the reason he had so many putts is because he was often a long way from the hole as a result of dodgy drives, approach shots and pitches......this may have been asa result of conservative golf but is probably more to do with the fact he wasn't swinging well aside from the opening hole.

    Yang on the other hand was brilliant and took his chance....he played agreessively when chasing and smart when he had the lead...he fully deserved his victory.

    Ishikawa looked an awesome prospect at Turnberry and looked equally good at Hazeltine so fingers crossed he continues that development but Rory Mac will surely be the next to challenge Tiger if he believes in himself. The guy is fearless and has lots of power in his swing. Despite his performance this year, I am not sure he has the game for Augusta but he will be well in contention for the other three and either him or Fisher will be GB's next major winner (sadly not Westwood who has too many wounds)

  • Comment number 3.

    Good comments Wookie. There were several times in the last 9 holes where he stood very near to Yang and within his peripheral vision while the latter was putting. This was very disappointing behaviour from Tiger, especially after the way he supported Harrington over the consequences of the "on the clock" drama the previous week.

  • Comment number 4.

    Tiger had two incredible stats. The 14 for 14 that was ended yesterday and the fact that he has never come from behind on the last day to win a major. This stat also seems an incredibly significant part of his story.

  • Comment number 5.

    Whilst Woods is still a fantastic player I cannot help but think that his defeat is quite significant for the sport and perhaps his dominance of golf is coming to an end.

    Also, I agree with you on Ishikawa aka 'The Bashful Prince'. He is an exciting prospect at only 17 years old and I'm sure we will be seeing and hearing a lot more of him in the future.

  • Comment number 6.

    Wookie, I think your comments should be passed on the Pga Tour, I'm sure everyone who watched the coverage heared Woods swearing on the course, this is not the message that the best player in the world sure be sending to younger people who are watching the game, the Pga Tour need to stand up to Woods and punish him, he his no bigger than the game.

  • Comment number 7.

    Golf 'tis a great game indeed!

    Yang was superb and unflappable, but Tiger with a 75 on Sunday helped hand the game over to him.

    It never ceases to amaze me to think that by turning a club a fraction of a fraction of a degree, or by hitting the ball a wee bit harder or softer, can make so much difference in the outcome. The mind is a wonderful thing, but it is hard to comprehend that a human can consistently make all the right micro adjustments in his/her swing and make that little white ball go where it should ... well, some of the time that is.

    Don't you just love golf!

  • Comment number 8.

    What a great day for golf. Yang did what so many famous golfers have never done before and that is to beat Tiger Woods at his own game. This could be the end of Tiger`s dominance especially his intimidation factor of his playing partners on the last day of a tournament. It didn`t seem to bother Yang as he played a "Tiger" final round. Maybe now MacIlroy,Ishikawa and Villegas will take inspiration from this and become the next great one. Being a Tiger fan I was astonished to see him way off the green as Yang was preparing to putt at one hole, very disappointing.

  • Comment number 9.

    Congratulations Mr Carter. An opportunity to write about an historic event and let the world, or at least those here learn about Mr Yang and all you end up talking about is Tiger Woods. Yang won fair and square with some amazing consistency that let everyone else in the field down, not just Tiger Woods. You can't work out which is more significant than the enormous effect this will have on the Asian market? Is the whole golfing world distraught that Tiger didn't win?

    Tiger had a bad day at the office, I don't think it's surprising in the least, and let's get real, you hear athletes everywhere swearing. Not that it's something to condone, but it happens. It just shows how passionate he is about what he does. If everyone stopped focussing all the time on Woods on whether there might be a chink in his armour or whatever, maybe some better stories would come out.... like the story of Mr Yang. We know the story of Tiger and what he's done for kids in the sport and brought to the sport far outweighs the petty complaints about him on here.

  • Comment number 10.

    Agree with wookie. Woods is just petulant. He may well break Jack's record but he will never be in the same league for class. It's also about time the Sky commentators picked up on Wood's constant swearing and spitting. If I was playing in the group behind I would insist on being to allowed to pick, clean and place as the ball must be covered in the Tiger's saliva.

  • Comment number 11.

    i never knew tiger spat and swore so much, he ought to take defeat on the chin a little better than he does. i for one think woods is arrogent and self-obessed with his own fame, i really hope this is the end of his dominance because i cant stand his "lets have a party chums", ie mainly roger federer and thriery henry on his boat.

    i just love it when the fella gets beat, he' so arrogent in his interviews your can tell he's looking down on the intervewer. i also hope that phil mickelson overhauls him as the no1 player in the world now that would be good.

  • Comment number 12.

    I think the most significant outcome of the USPGA is that it may well mark the beginning of the end of the Woods era. He displayed many failities on the last day.

    There must now be a question mark as to whether he will now match Nicklaus' 18 majors, and it would not surprise me if he actually retired early before he does so and before his 40th birthday.

  • Comment number 13.

    First Asian to win a major??? I am delighted with Yang's win but last time I checked, Fiji is still part of Asia. Vijay Singh did win the PGA Championship in 1998 and Masters in 2000.

  • Comment number 14.

    I agree that TW is developing a slightly unattractive "persona" in one or two respects but he has defined golf for me, these past 13 years, and his quest to beat Jack's 18 is the great sporting narrative of our time - I'm by no means sure he's going to get there, but he deserves to do it and I hope he does

  • Comment number 15.

    why is everyone saying this brings an end to tigers domination???
    he has had such an amazing year and that 14 our of 14 record had to go at one it's gone he will have even less pressure to win the majors next year...don't be surprised if he pulls of a grand slam..we have all got to remember tiger is only 33..he has still got at last 10 years of golf majoring to go..and if you add it all up thats at least 40 majors to win..even if he wins 6 or 7 of them he will be nickales record. Knowing Tiger actually he will probably still compete until he's 50 knowing his health and fitness. So to conclude na tiger's domination isn't ending, to him he's just getting used to golf again..if anyone else had a year out of golf and came back the way tiger has we would be saying extroardinary things..why cant we say the same about tiger as much as many golfers are jealous of him we need to give him some respect..but anyway well done Yang..couldnt have played the last holes much better under pressure. Don't get fooled when people say Tiger's era is over..i reckon he will come back very strong next year and surprise us much as i dont want to because i would prefer a British major winner:)

  • Comment number 16.

    I don't believe it's the end of an era but it may have dented the Wood's aura, now the rest of the field realise he is only human it'll give others more confidence to take him on. I doubt many will be able to emmulate Yang's ice cool performance on Sunday when the heat is really on, that's what it really boils down to and that's why Wood's has won so many titles, he can handle those intense situations better than most.As for his conduct on the course, it's not good and set's a very poor example, I've no doubt kids watching him will believe if Tiger Woods can chuck his clubs about, spit & swear why can't I?

  • Comment number 17.

    Another point, Wood's had won the previous two weeks running, two wins and runner up in a major - just in August! Doesn't sound like Tiger's got too much to concern him form wise.

  • Comment number 18.

    First Asian to win a major??? I am delighted with Yang's win but last time I checked, Fiji is still part of Asia. Vijay Singh did win the PGA Championship in 1998 and Masters in 2000.


    Fiji is part of Australasia (or Oceania) and as far as I know, has never been considered to be part of Asia.

  • Comment number 19.

    The mark of a true champion is the manner in which they accept defeat. Tiger may (eventually) win more than Jack but doesnt come close in his approach to this. Yang's approach to the game was flawless and he is a worthy winner.

  • Comment number 20.

    Lots of verry good comments on a very balanced article. I'd just like to say that we do have enormous expectations of Tiger both in level of play and behaviour on and off the course.

    Up to this year he handled it all pretty well, but he has undoubtedly deteriorated in all aspects.

    I do believe that this victory for Yang will give the rest encouragement, but that was true when Darren Clarke beat him in the 2000 WGC Matchplay and he went on to obliterate the opposition all year long. I wouldn´t bank on Tiger rolling over.

    What was surprising was Tiger´s super patient attitude (a little too conservative). In the past when he had a distance advantage he would drive it home if you'll pardon the pun. Now he doesn't have that advantage, he's still long but there are many others who now match or beat him. He must win with accuracy....and that´s just not his game, at least off the tee. What also pulled Tiger through many close shaves was his awesome demonstrated on holes 71 and's not that awesome any more.

    I fully expect Tiger to come back roaring next year, it would be great to see a Slam and equal Jack´s record in the process. I'm sure that's what he'll be thinking of.

  • Comment number 21.

    Come Oct 8 Presidents Cup, maybe we will be so lucky to see Yang-Tiger rematch mano a mano.
    Pray tell me, who do you think will be under more pressure?
    Remember the old adage (Asian Folklore) a wounded Tiger is a Man-Eating Tiger.
    Stephen Ames, Rory Sabitini to name a few has suffered his ire. Stay tuned.

  • Comment number 22.

    Contrary to most, Tiger had a distinct driving advantage over Yang.
    If Tiger had eagled the 606 yd 11th hole (which I believe he was the only one to reach the green in the final round in 2) with his signature putting, I believe Yang will not have won.

    Yang certainly deserved the victory with his top ranked final round.

  • Comment number 23.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 24.

    Most of these hyped expectations about Asian golfers and fear of other golfers is alaughable misreading of the facts.Can anyone explain how Woods could have infuenced the par 70 average score across the field and the multitude of scores above par on the final day?Was it just out of fear of Woods? Surely that fortuitous eagle that changed the complexion of the game cannot be an excuse to say Yang dominated the round,would it?The taste of the pudding is in the eating.I believe conclusions of the future of Woods game or others verses Woods is still to be reached over the next PGA season.Will Yang sand the test of time in the PGA?Time will tell
    Woods came from injury competed in a number of tournaments and won in four of them.Ssome who are said to be able to challenge him going forward did not even get close to winning a tournament while he was injured.I'm not sure that was all about feaar of Woods.He missed the cut in the British open,remember who nearly beat the remainder of that outstanding field?
    Some have come out of the woodwork to begin raising moral questions and suggesting fines.How many guys spit and curse on a golf course?Just because you do not pay attention to the others is no excuse for you to suggest Woods is a villain of some sort.He has not chosen to be number one or the spot light.You might as well ask the camera men to focus elsewhere or Niki,etc to withdraw their endorsements from him.Woods is only human and should be free to express his anger like anybody else.How do you teach that anyway?
    Legends don't just come around every other day.To win 14 majors is phenomenol.Coming second in a quest for the 15th is no mean feat.Woods will not just fall away or apart as some wish him to.He will win again.Yang will vanish.

  • Comment number 25.

    Come on Iain, hurry up with the next blog. Solheim Cup is well under way + golf in Europe and the US.

  • Comment number 26.

    indeed, hurry up ian otherwise Poweralbarudi will get sore feet on that soap box. This is a golf blog eedgit and has nothing to do with race or colour ! I wont return to this blog again cos of that eedgit.


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