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How Y.E. Yang stood up to Tiger Woods – and shocked the world

The South Korean pulled off one of the greatest upsets in sports on Sunday by beating golf legend Tiger Woods in the 91st PGA Championship with calm insouciance.

By Scott Armstrong / August 17, 2009

Y.E. Yang celebrates his victory in the PGA Championship after sinking a putt on the 18th hole on Sunday.

Jeff Haynes/Reuters

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Y.E. Yang apparently forgot to read Robert Ringer's bestselling self-help book from the 1970s: “Winning Through Intimidation.”

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When Tiger Woods goes into the final round of a major golf tournament, after all, he always wins, often not because of his own brilliance on the fairways – though inevitably there are moments of that, too – but because his opponents collapse at the mere sight of him atop the leader board.

Not this time.

Mr. Yang was the one with the magic-wand chips and cool putter. He was the one with the toothy grin and split-the-fairway drives. He was the one who sailed the ball – with courageous precision – 206 yards over a tree on the last hole to leave it eight feet from the hole and put an exclamation point on one of the biggest upsets in golf, maybe sports, history.

Woods, meanwhile, was the one left snarling. He was the one missing eight-foot puts with metronome regularity. Ultimately, he was the one who proved vincible on this blustery day outside Minneapolis – the kind Minnesotans say is perfect for walleye fishing – which may now change the dynamics on the professional golf tour.

Or at least we can pretend it will.

Before we go any father, let’s clear up one thing: Tiger Woods won five tournaments this year after coming off major knee surgery, a record that most people would consider worth an exhibit at the Smithsonian. Not Tiger.

He measures his success by victories in the majors, and Sunday’s loss at the PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minn., was his last chance this year to win one of the big four, after coming up short in the Masters, the US Open, and the British Open, where he didn’t even make the cut.

Even worse, he lost Sunday after going into the round with a two-shot lead, something he had never done in 14 previous majors when he was leading on the last day. And who was this Yang guy, anyway? The native South Korean didn’t take up golf until he was 19. Woods, seemingly, took it up at 19 days. Yang taught himself at a driving range outside Seoul almost as an afterthought.

Woods was trained by his father from the time he was teething to win tournaments – and did. Woods has won 70 PGA Tour victories. Yang, only one.

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