Monday, August 17, 2009

MGM: Y.E. Yang, Tiger, and Jordan

yangIt has happened. The last time it happened was in 1995 when Michael Jordan and the Bulls were taken down by the Orlando Magic. The time before that was probably when Buster Douglas beat Mike Tyson. The category is "When the Invincible becomes Vincible."

It certainly happens to everyone eventually, and yesterday, on the final day of the PGA Championship at Hazeltine, it happened to Tiger Woods. He finally choked on the biggest stage. Woods, who is most certainly the most invincible figure in sports today, has shown that he bleeds like a human. And yes, he occasionaly can have such a bad day that it costs him a major in which he seemed to be in complete control.

It was a Sunday at a major, and it seemed that most competitors of the PGA took themselves out of the mix as the weekend went on. Ernie Els, Vijay Singh, and then Padraig Harrington with his 9 on a Par 3 was further elimination of what appeared to be the "real" threats to Tiger winning his 15th majors.

But, here was Y.E. Yang. A Korean who most of us - at least those of us who are obsessed with the greatest golfers in the world - had no idea who this guy was about 72 hours ago. And not only was he not reminding us of Jan Van De Velde in the 1999 British Open , by blowing up - but he was hitting winners.

After his Eagle chip on 14, his two most memorable shots were his approach on 16 that teased the water on the right of the green, and his amazing 3-wood hybrid on 18 to 10 feet. Neither of those shots were a great idea if you "were playing it safe". But Yang either didn't mind tempting his nerve, nor didn't realize that he was supposed to implode in the presence of Tiger Woods. Whatever the case may be, Y.E. Yang did not "back in" to a major win. He went after it. And closed the deal with brilliance. Just like Buster Douglas did in Tokyo in 1990. And just like the Orlando Magic did in 1995. They beat the best when nobody thought it was possible.

The New York Times :
In one of the biggest upsets in the sport’s history, Yang, 37, became the first Korean man to win one of golf’s four major championships. He was also the first golfer to overtake Woods in a major championship in which Woods had the lead going into the final round.

On a difficult golf course that did not yield a round in the 60s on Sunday, Yang prevailed in a tense, head-to-head duel in the gusting winds. He took the lead at the 14th hole with a 75-foot pitch for eagle and kept it to the final hole, where he widened it by hitting a towering 197-yard shot with a hybrid club to set up a 10-foot birdie.

When Woods was not able to hole his 60-foot chip shot for a birdie that would have forced Yang to make the putt to win, Yang holed it for good measure and broke into a dance. Punching the air with his fists, he held his arms aloft in victory and high-fived his caddie.

After watching the celebration, his face impassive, Woods missed his final par putt — one of eight putts from inside 10 feet he missed in the round. He putted out for the 75, which tied his highest closing round as a professional in a major championship. The losing margin was a five-shot swing from the start of the day, which Woods entered leading by two.

Meanwhile, Tiger demonstrated his mortality and his genius in the same weekend. His mortality was demonstrated by the fact that he does in fact have a day where he cannot just show up and dominate. He can lose a tournament he desperately wants to win and even is in a perfect position to win as he was after 36 holes on Friday. At every turn, he appeared ready to leave everyone in his dust, but he could not summon the performance to make that happen.

His genius was demonstrated by the fact that over the final 36 holes of the tournament he could not have played any more ordinary golf than he did. He was very, very un-Tiger-like. He looked like he was ready to toss his clubs into the water in sheer frustration on more than one occasion. Everything seemed to be working against him - and yet, he was about to win another major until Yang found his own magical shot on 14.

So we learned that Tiger is not invincible. But we also learned that on his best day, Tiger still leaves the entire field in his wake. And on his worst day, he finishes 2nd in a major. I think it is easy to admit it when he wins, but I think this weekend once again demonstrated that Tiger Woods is the current most unstoppable force in the universe.

And it took a Korean we know nothing about to stop him.

The Guardian offers 10 things about Y.E. Yang you didn't know before this weekend ...
1) YE Yang did not play golf until the age of 19, when a friend advised him to take up the game.

2) He taught himself to play by watching golf on TV and copying the actions of his idols, Nick Faldo and Jack Nicklaus.

3) Yang performed compulsory military service for two years in South Korea at 21.

4) He moved to New Zealand in 1995 to pursue a professional golf career.

5) His first victory on the PGA Tour only came in March this year.

6) Yang is the fourth of eight children and has three children of his own.

7) He is the first player to beat Tiger Woods in a major when Woods has led after three rounds.

8 ) Yang has held off a Woods challenge before, forcing the world No1 into second place to win the 2006 HSBC Champions event.

9) His childhood dream was to become a bodybuilder.

10) Yang has described himself as an "average Joe" and one of the "lower than average PGA Tour players". Although he might well have changed that opinion after yesterday's events.

Regardless, it was surely another memorable golf major. Although the 4 major winners this year were hardly a list you will always remember, surely the 2nd place finishers in the last 3 majors (Mickelson, Watson, and Woods) helped make all 3 of them wonderful to behold.

Here is our updated lists of the "Tiger Era" -


YearMastersUS OpenBritish OpenPGA Champ

Table Tutorial

And Tiger's Results in said majors:

YearMastersUS OpenBritish OpenPGA Champ

Table Tutorial

Finally, after a search of Youtube, this is all I could find on Yang - his secret in his garage in Southlake:

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