Friday, 19 March 2010
PGA Championship - Final Round  (Getty Images)
PGA Championship - Final Round (Getty Images)

South Korea's Y E Yang made history as he became the first man to overturn a Tiger Woods 54 hole lead in a Major Championship to claim the US PGA Championship, leading an impressive European Tour performance at Hazeltine National.

Yang’s dramatic three shot victory over the World Number One makes him the first Asian-born player to win a Major Championship, with the 37 year old one of 11 European Tour Members tied tenth or better in Minnesota.

Impressively, eight of the those were Europeans, far surpassing Ryder Cup Captain Colin Montgomerie’s pre-Championship prediction that “four or five” of his potential Team for the 2010 Ryder Cup could break into the top ten.

One such player. three-time Major winner Padraig Harrington, had been firmly in contention to successfully defend his title until an eight on the par three eighth cost him his chance, while Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood tied for third – McIlroy producing his best finish in a Major to date.

Similarly Germany’s Martin Kaymer claimed his best Major finish - and moved into the top spot in The Race to Dubai - as he shared sixth place with fellow European Tour Members Ernie Els, Søren Kjeldsen and Henrik Stenson, with Harrington, Zach Johnson, Graeme McDowell and Franceso Molinari all tied tenth to complete the superb European Tour showing.

However the day belonged to Yang, the World Number 110, whose previous biggest success had been at the HSBC Champions.
Yang denied Woods his 15th Major Championship and dented the American’s previous perfect record of turning 14 third round Major leads into wins.

The Korean landed his second victory on US soil in style, first overturning a two shot lead and then eagling the par four 14th hole to move in front before holding his nerve down the stretch to seal victory at seven under par 280 with a two under final round of 70.

Woods came up short by three shots, taking a 75 for second place, with his putter uncharacteristically letting him down.

The catalyst for Yang's victory came when he sent down a brilliant chip shot for eagle at the par four 14th as Woods birdied to take a one shot lead with four to play.

Yang becomes only the third European Tour Member to win the US PGA Championship after Harrington last year and Vijay Singh in 1998 and 2004.

“You never know in life this might be my last win as a golfer, but it sure is a great day,” said Yang. “It's going to be a big foundation for me to continue playing at the top level. It just means the world right now. It hasn't really sunken in, but I do know the significance of it.

“When KJ Choi won his first tournament on the PGA tour, it increased the popularity of golf in Korea. I hope this win will be as - if not more - significant, in terms of impact both to golf in Korea as well as golf in Asia so that all the young golfers, Korean and Asian, will build their dreams and expand their horizons a bit with this win.”

Woods had begun the fourth round at a rain-softened Hazeltine with a two shot lead at eight under over playing partner Yang and Harrington of Ireland.

Yang upped the ante with a birdie at the par five third and Woods bogeyed at the par three fourth, three-putting to fall into a tie with the Korean at seven under.

Yang's time in the lead was short-lived initially as he bogeyed the fifth, while Harrington narrowly missed birdie chances at the fifth and sixth to stay tied for second at six under.

A third of an inch of rain had fallen overnight on the 7,674 yard, par-72 Minnesota course after Woods completed a third round 71 to move closer to a record-tying fifth US PGA title.

Playing conservative, low-risk golf, the World Number One had seen his four stroke halfway lead cut in half by Yang's five under 67 and Harrington's 69.

Harrington’s reign as PGA champion was undone in one hole - the par three eighth – with a quintuple bogey eight having found the right-sided lake off the tee, then finding the water again from the rough.

Woods took bogey at the same hole to fall to six under and the joint leaders made the turn with a three shot lead over the field.

The US PGA champion had come out of the final pairing for the last 13 years and Woods took control once more with a birdie at the par five 11th, only to bogey the 12th and drop back into a share of the lead with the Korean at six under.

Then came Yang's moment of magic at the 14th, Woods making birdie to stay in the hunt with four to play. There was still time for drama as Woods bogeyed the par three 17th only for Yang to miss his par putt and the Korean went to the 72nd hole still with a one shot lead.

Yang stayed cool at the 18th and sent in a remarkable hybrid shot from the left fairway fringe under a tree that just missed the hole, the Korean allowing himself a fist pump. From the other side but on the fairway, Woods' five iron found left greenside rough.

That left Woods needing yet another miracle shot to rescue but his effort ran past the hole and Yang had two putts to become US PGA champion. He needed just one and history was made, Woods bogeying the 18th for his 75.

Yang said: “I've sort of visualised this quite a few times playing against the best player, if not one of the best players in the history of golf, in the final round in a Major Championship. I’ve always sort of dreamed about this. I've seen throughout Tiger's career that a lot of players have folded probably on the last day when playing with him.

“So when I was at home, or probably at a tournament, watching Tiger in the clubhouse, I'd usually try to visualize and try to bring up a mock strategy on how to win, if I ever played against Tiger.

“But when the chance came, I sort of thought that, hey, I could always play a good round of golf and Tiger could always have a bad day. And I guess today was one of those days.”

Woods was the first person to congratulate Yang and remained positive despite missing a golden chance to close the gap on Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 Major Championships.

"I hit the ball so much better than my score indicates," Woods said.

"I hit it great all day. I made absolutely nothing. I just have to say (it was a) terrible day on the greens and I had it at the wrong time. I was certainly in control of the tournament for most of the day, but just didn't make anything today.

"I hit the ball great off the tee, hit my irons well. I did everything I needed to do except for getting the ball in the hole."

Westwood, third at last month's Open having bogeyed the 72nd hole to miss a play-off with Stewart Cink and Tom Watson, birdied the par four 14th en route to a two under 70 to be first in the clubhouse at three under.

"I made a few too many mistakes on the greens, but I'm sure everybody can say that,” said Westwood.

"It was a good bounce-back after a bit of a disappointment at The Open, not winning there."

McIlroy was next to join him having rebounded from a double bogey six at the first, completing a round of 70 with five birdies and one bogey, the 20 year old securing a second top ten finish in a Major this year having tied for tenth at the US Open Championship.

American Lucas Glover had got to six under after five holes before being derailed by four bogeys in the next seven holes. A birdie at the 15th restored him to three under but he bogeyed the last for a 74 to take fifth place at two under.

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