#9…Y. E. Yang vs. Tiger Woods
PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club, Chaska, MN…August 2009
I have never attended a PGA event before, and when it was announced that the PGA Championship would take place right here in Minnesota, I thought I might jump at the chance to go. My friend Bill, who currently lives near Seattle, told me he was interested in going so I went ahead and purchased the 7 day passes.
I attended the practice events and was amazed at how much upkeep Hazeltine National received on a daily basis. Just walking the course was a joy, but to be up close with the greatest golfers in the world was quite an experience.
The sheer volume of people on Monday-Wednesday was remarkable. Unfortunately, it turned into a giant “root for Tiger Woods-fest”. Especially during the practice rounds, almost everyone would just follow Tiger around. It seemed like to some people, he was the only golfer on the course all week.
I could go on about so much I witnessed on these hot days, but I’ll cut to the main deal that everyone knows about…Y.E. Yang coming from behind to upset Tiger Woods.
After two rounds of play, there were rumors going around the course that bookies had already begun paying out to gamblers who bet on Tiger Woods. Obviously this couldn’t have been true, but this was as close to a done deal as one could ever imagine. I mean Tiger Woods only gets better as tournaments progress, he doesn’t get worse, right?
Round 3 saw Tiger jump out of the gate with a -1 after 3 holes. He would stay even the rest of the round and finished with a not so bad, but progressively worse 71. The lead was cut tremendously however by an pretty much unknown golfer, Y. E. Yang. Yang shot a 3rd round best 67, including 3 consecutive birdies on the back.
Sunday round 4 saw the wannabes in the crowd all wearing red to cheer on their favorite golfer Tiger Woods. I pretty much knew Tiger would turn it up and roll to his only Major win of the year, but Tiger had different plans.
I must say, I saw very little of the leaders because of the 50,000 in attendance all trying to be a part of it. We simply camped by certain holes watching players roll through, essentially waiting on the entire field to pass. Thankfully everyone was given an earpiece which had the live XM radio feed so you could always stay up to date. Those who didn’t have one would still hear important updates within seconds from those who were in the know.
Upon hearing Tiger and Yang had reached the back 9, it was clear that Yang wasn’t going away. I certainly got what I hoped, a close match. Yang was solid with a par on 10-13. Tiger was better going -1 on that same stretch.
As we maneuvered our way to the 16th hole which would also be our final sitting spot, we payed close attention to the radio to see how Tiger and Yang were doing. We didn’t need a radio to know what had just occurred. The roar on 14, some half mile away, was so loud that everyone on 16 was looking at one another. Yang had just eagled 14 to take the lead on Woods. It was an amazing moment.
Coming to 16, the crowd was raucous and it felt like I watching another sport. As they advanced to 17, we learned that the playoff scenario involved holes 16-18 so we stayed there and listened to the results. Both players bogeyed 17 so Tiger needed a great showing at 18. He never got it. To add insult to injury, Yang actually birdied the hole after a beautiful approach to the 18th green.
I had witnessed something Tiger Woods had never done before, choke away a 54 hole lead in a Major. The crowd upon exiting seemed like someone had just shot their dog. It was amazing how many people were blatantly rooting for Tiger Woods. In fact, it was kind of sickening. I was so thrilled at what just happened and unfortunately, many others didn’t seem to feel the same way. In fact, if you watch the video of Yang nailing his winning putt, there is a guy in the background just standing there with arm crossed looking pissed. Hilarious.
Seeing Y.E. Yang pull off the upset of Tiger Woods at the 2009 PGA Championship, is #9 on My Top 15 Sports Moments.