A Funny Thing Happened

On the way to Tiger Woods winning his 15th major and his record-tying 5th Wannemaker Trophy.  He shot 75 and Y.E. Yang shot 70 to win his first major title, indeed only his 2nd PGA Tour title overall, and the first men’s major won by an Asian-born player.  Tiger had been 14-14 in major’s when leading after 54 holes and only lost once overall on the PGA Tour when holding the clean lead with one round to go, but those records went by the boards as well.

The tempting thing to do will be to analyze this from what Tiger (and others) failed to do today, but I think we should start with what Yang did correctly to win this title.  First of all, he played very solid golf making to my memory no serious gaffes on tee or approach shots.  He played incredibly steady and didn’t make it easy for Tiger like some final round playing partners have done in the past.  He made some birdies and a bunch of pars to stick around so that he was half of a two man race down the final few holes.  Then he won it with his chip-in eagle at the driveable par-4 14th hole and iced it with his Corey Pavin at Shinnecock-like 3-wood approach shot on 18.  The remarkable thing about 18 was that he did not choke it away after a very nervy 3-putt on 17 let Tiger stay within 1 shot despite his own bogey on the hole.

Now, as for Tiger, he just didn’t have it today, plain and simple.  He would’ve won anyway with better luck with the flatstick, but his approach shots were off, especially when he tried to fade the ball, and he seemed a half-club off most of the round.  Only by his remarkable ability to grind away was he still in serious contention until the last hole.  Obviously he’ll be seriously disappointed in his play really all weekend; if Tiger had been Tiger he would’ve won going away.

As for the rest of the field, no one could mount a serious charge, but the breezy weather at Hazeltine really didn’t permit a low score to be fired.  Still, you don’t expect a player of Padraig Harrington’s calibre to build a snowman on a par-3 hole.  Lee Westwood continues to be Captain Almost and a solid final round allowed up-and-comer Rory McIlroy to tie him for 3rd.  All in all a very compelling end to the major championship golf season for 2009 and congratulations to Y.E. Yang for winning the 91st PGA Championship.


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