Yang seals major win and tames the Tiger

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The Independent Online

Asian golf was last night celebrating a historic first victory in a male major as YE Yang was crowned the USPGA champion. But for the rest of the world it was the defeat of Tiger Woods, and the destruction of part of his aura, which was sure to attract the more sensational headlines. Believe it, this was also a historic day in the Tiger legend.

Yang's achievement is no doubt best measured by the record of a person he overhauled on a torrid final day here. This was the first time Woods had ever lost a major when holding or sharing the lead after three rounds. Indeed, this was just the second time in 38 American events in which he has had sole lead after 54 holes and not prevailed. His previous loss in this fashion came in 1996 at something called the Quad City Open.

Woods was 20 at the time and was almost expected to buckle under the pressure. This time around nobody predicted his demise, least of all such a timid one. Without wishing to take anything at all away from Yang, this was anything but vintage Tiger as he crashed to a 75. The greatest front runner the game has ever seen truly had tripped over his own mediocrity.

Woods not only started two shots to the good yesterday but on Saturday had enjoyed a four-shot advantage. It was a done deal, an exercise in time-filling for the next two days. But in this strange golfing year we should have known better. A 59-year-old going so close in The Open, two first-time major winners. Now we have Yang, a 37-year-old who did not even begin playing golf until he was 19. Woods, of course, started playing when he was two. So Yang did not only give Woods a two-shot start, but a 17-year start. Remarkable.

Saying that, Yang is by no means an unknown, despite his previous best placing in a major being a tie for 30th at the Masters. Three years ago he beat Woods in Shanghai and earlier this year he won his first American title in Florida. He is not a big man but he generates great power, which helped him keep up on the 7,674-yard layout. As did a few magical shots which came straight out of his playing partner's book of miracles.

His triumph will be remembered for the chip-in on the 14th, as well as the brilliant birdie on the 18th, when Woods was just one behind and poised in the middle of the fairway. Yang took on the bunker and outrageously plonked it within 10 feet. Yang stepped up, knocked it in for a 70, jumped up and down, lifted his golf bag to the sky and Woods' fate was sealed. He was to bogey and the scoreboard made staggering reading. On eight-under, Yang had won by three. It had been a five-shot swing. Not quite as belittling as Nick Faldo's dismantling of Greg Norman at the 1996 Masters, but in its own way just as incredible.

"It was a bad day at the wrong time," said Woods, who took 32 putts. "That's the way it goes. I played well enough to win the championship – but I didn't putt well enough." Woods was not the only one staring to the heavens last night. Padraig Harrington had been fancied to be the main contender, but the Irishman's USPGA defence suffered a major-wrecking calamity on the eighth. Harrington took an embarrassing quintuple-bogey eight on the par-three and from standing at just one shot behind Woods he fell six behind. His tournament was sadly over in an instant.

Had the exertions of his dramatic resurgence finally caught up with Harrington? Last week in Akron his challenge came to a similar, if less premature end, when he again took an eight (on the par-five 16th). No doubt this setback and the resulting 78 will hurt, although when he reflects how he has re-established himself as a contender in the past fortnight, the positives will surely invade his misery. If he can forget the details of his Hazeltine water hell, that is.

Harrington pushed his six-iron off the tee into the water; from the dropping zone he pulled it so badly the ball nearly hit his playing partner Henrik Stenson; from the rough Harrington then thinned it back into the drink. He was playing his sixth shot and he was still to make the green. It was something of a relief when Harrington eventually holed out.

It was a stunning moment which overshadowed Woods' own pedestrian beginning. Through the first 10 holes Woods was two-over for his round, falling back to six-under. At this stage Yang had defined himself as the sole challenger, tying him at the top of the leaderboard. Yet when Woods birdied the par-five 11th and Yang could only par, the storyline seemed set. Not for Yang it didn't. Woods bogeyed the next and then it was Yang who produced "the Tiger moment" chipping in from the side of the short par-four 14th. Woods bravely followed him in for a birdie. But he had surrendered his lead and was never to reclaim it. The putts stayed out and his genius continued to betray him.

To be fair, Yang was the only one of the leaders who withstood the heat. Nobody else who started the final round in the top 10 managed to break par. It was a collective retreat, only partially explained by the capricious winds and drying greens. Inevitably, some of those who began the last round out of contention were last night celebrating unexpectedly high finishes and large cheques.

Pleasingly two of these came from the United Kingdom. Lee Westwood shot a 70 to finish in a tie for third. Of course, he filled the same position in The Open at Turnberry, although, with respect, this was a far lesser achievement. Nevertheless, Westwood declared himself "delighted". "I've come back from what could have been a slight disappointment at The Open, not winning there," said the 36-year-old. "It's just forward progress all the time and I can't wait for the Masters next April."

Rory McIlroy will be another counting down the eight months. The 20-year-old became the youngest player to finish on the podium since the 19-year-old Sergio Garcia in this same event 10 years before. McIlroy also fired a 70 for a three-under placing alongside Westwood. "It's great. I finished 10th in the US Open and I'll be finishing top five here," he said. "I would have taken that at the start of the week. I had a couple of chances to be even a couple shots better, and I'm really pleased with myself. I can obviously build on this. It's been a great first year as a pro in the majors."

In fact, it was a rousing day for the European contingent. At the start of the week, Colin Montgomerie, the Ryder Cup captain, predicted that four or five of his boys would make the top 10. As it turned out, there were eight in the top 15. A fine tournament. But obviously not as fine as it was for South Korea and Asia and, of course Yang. The man who toppled the Tiger.

Hazeltine final scores

US PGA Championship, Hazeltine National Golf Club, Chaska, Minnesota: Final scores (US unless stated, par 72): 280 YE Yang (S Kor) 73 70 67 70

283 T Woods 67 70 71 75

285 L Westwood (Eng) 70 72 73 70, R McIlroy (NIrl) 71 73 71 70

286 L Glover 71 70 71 74

287 M Kaymer (Ger) 73 70 71 73, E Els (SA) 75 68 70 74, S Kjeldsen (Den) 70 73 70 74, H Stenson (Swe) 73 71 68 75

288 J Merrick 72 72 74 70, D Johnson 72 73 73 70, Z Johnson 74 73 70 71, G McDowell (NIrl) 70 75 71 72, F Molinari (It) 74 73 69 72, P Harrington (Ire) 68 73 69 78

289 H Mahan 69 75 74 71, V Singh (Fiji) 69 72 75 73, T Clark (SA) 76 68 71 74

290 I Poulter (Eng) 72 70 76 72, O Wilson (Eng) 74 72 72 72, M Allen 74 71 72 73, C Pavin 73 71 71 75, R Fisher (Eng) 73 68 73 76

291 KJ Choi (S Kor) 73 72 73 73, B Curtis 73 72 73 73, S McCarron 75 72 71 73, R Allenby (Aus) 69 75 75 72, B Jones (Aus) 71 70 73 77, S Ames (Can) 74 71 70 76, J Rollins 73 73 68 77, A Quiros (Sp) 69 76 69 77

292 J Overton 72 74 75 71, G Fernandez-Castaño (Sp) 70 77 73 72, K Sutherland 73 72 74 73, S Flesch 74 73 69 76

293 S Hansen (Den) 72 76 74 71, F Couples 74 74 73 72, W Austin 73 73 73 74, T Jaidee (Tha) 70 76 73 74, MA Jimenez (Sp) 75 73 71 74, B Weekley 74 74 71 74, D Toms 69 75 72 77

294 C Schwartzel (SA) 76 70 72 76, G Ogilvy (Aus) 71 73 78 72, K Perry 74 70 78 72, R Beem 71 76 75 72, L Donald (Eng) 71 77 73 73, C Campbell 74 73 73 74, K Na 73 75 71 75, B Crane 70 75 72 77

295 M Sim (Aus) 73 75 76 71, T Levet (Fra) 72 75 76 72, C Villegas (Col) 73 73 76 73, A Kim 73 74 71 77, R Goosen (SA) 77 71 70 77

296 H Fujita (Japan) 71 74 73 78, C Wi (S Kor) 72 76 75 73, R Ishikawa (Japan) 74 74 76 72, B Tway 72 76 74 74

297 J Mallinger 73 71 76 77, R Green (Aus) 75 73 74 75, T Lehman 72 74 76 75

298 J Furyk 73 75 73 77, A Cabrera (Arg) 76 70 76 76, N Green (Aus) 72 75 76 75, JJ Henry 72 73 80 73

299 S Cink 73 73 72 81, J Leonard 73 75 73 78, JM Singh (India) 74 73 74 78, R Sabbatini (South Africa) 74 70 78 77, D Smail (New Zealand) 75 73 75 76,

P Goydos 70 78 78 73

300 P Mickelson 74 74 76 76

301 G Bisconti 75 72 78 76

302 S O'Hair 74 73 82 73

303 C Wood (Eng) 74 73 77 79, G Sturgeon 73 71 80 79, B Estes 74 74 77 78

305 A Forsyth (Sco) 73 75 75 82

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