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“The Tiger Killer’s Triumph: Y.E. Yang’s Journey to Major Glory”

What you need to know more about

  • Despite his rising star, Yang remained relatively unknown when he arrived at PGA Tour qualifying school and yet, his partnership with caddie AJ Montecinos proved transformative, culminating in a PGA Tour card and a maiden victory at the Honda Classic.
  • Despite this, at the 2009 PGA Championship, the then 37-year-old South Korean, ranked 110th globally, stood on the cusp of history as the first Asian-born player poised to claim a major golf championship.

After a restless night, Y.E. Yang found himself in unfamiliar territory come morning, facing a daunting challenge akin to encountering a golfing kraken. Despite this, at the 2009 PGA Championship, the then 37-year-old South Korean, ranked 110th globally, stood on the cusp of history as the first Asian-born player poised to claim a major golf championship.

Tiger Woods, dominating the sport as world No. 1 for four consecutive years, had never relinquished a major title after leading the final round—a perfect record of 14 leads, 14 victories.

With just a two-shot advantage, the odds seemed stacked in Woods’ favour as the championship unfolded at Hazeltine National in Chaska, Minnesota. Few spectators anticipated his reign to be challenged, let alone ended.

Yet, unbeknownst to many, Yang had earned the moniker “The Tiger Killer.”

Yang’s Path to Glory

While Tiger Woods was showcasing his golfing prowess at the tender age of two on “The Mike Douglas Show” in 1978, Yang, seven years his senior, had yet to even hear of the sport. Raised in the island province of Jeju, some 7,400 miles away, Yang’s journey to the fairways was unconventional. Aiming to become a bodybuilder, his dreams were derailed by an ACL injury. Faced with financial strain, he found solace—and ultimately, a calling—at a local driving range.

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Teetering on the edge of obscurity, Yang’s dedication and self-taught skill propelled him forward. Despite mandatory military service, he pursued golf, turning semi-professional at 23 before ascending to the professional ranks. It was a gradual ascent, punctuated by a standout victory in Shanghai in 2006, where he outshone even Woods.

“The Tiger Killer” Emerges

Despite his rising star, Yang remained relatively unknown when he arrived at PGA Tour qualifying school and yet, his partnership with caddie AJ Montecinos proved transformative, culminating in a PGA Tour card and a maiden victory at the Honda Classic.

Facing Woods at the PGA Championship, Yang exuded confidence. With nerves of steel, he matched Woods shot for shot, refusing to succumb to the aura surrounding the golfing legend. As Woods faltered, Yang capitalized, sealing victory with a remarkable chip-in eagle and a composed final stretch.

His victory, celebrated fervently in Korea, marked a pivotal moment in golfing history.

Looking Forward

Yang’s triumph remains a defining moment in golf, yet his journey continues. Now competing on the PGA Tour Champions, he remains a formidable presence on the course.

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