Hate to be Rude: Audacity of hope

Y.E. Yang shakes the hand of Tiger Woods after defeating him at the PGA Championship.

Y.E. Yang shakes the hand of Tiger Woods after defeating him at the PGA Championship.

Will the fact Y.E. Yang became the first to overtake leader Tiger Woods on Sunday at a major championship give others more hope in similar situations or will the loss just make Woods more determined not to slip again?

Probably both.

But Woods losing the lead figures to be much more aberration than new trend. He is, after all, 14-1, with 54-hole leads. And even after his runner-up finish at the PGA Championship, Woods has won 53.65 percent of his Tour starts since July 2006.

He’s getting better, not worse.

• After Yang chipped in at 14 and took a one-stroke lead over Woods, the question became: Can Yang handle it? He answered with an emphatic yes.

As the playful Larry Fine of Reuters said, “Y.E. Yang put the why in ‘Why not?’ ”

• Where does Yang’s victory rank among giant-killing, head-to-head upsets? Near the top. It’s not as signficant to American golf as Francis Ouimet’s U.S. Open victory over Harry Vardon and Ted Ray in 1913. It’s not as shocking as club pro Jack Fleck’s shocker over Ben Hogan at the 1955 Open. But it’s in the conversation for a few reasons.

Vardon was 43 and Hogan 42 when they lost. Woods is 33, had won the two previous weeks, had been 14-0 when ahead after 54 holes and had won a remarkable 55 percent of his Tour starts over three years.

The unthinkable happened Sunday. Inevitable happened, too. Invincible died.

• What would have been better for golf: Victory by Yang or Woods?

For right now, Woods. The 2009 major season – which will be remembered more by what didn’t happen than what did – could have used a closing exclamation point by the world’s best player.

But in the long term, Yang. Since Woods plays about a third of the PGA Tour schedule, the game needs new stars. And good stories.

This one reads like fiction. The son of a Korean farmer, a 2008 Q-School graduate who didn’t take up golf until 19, becomes the first to topple Woods on a major Sunday?

Sure.

• What Yang did was pull a Tiger Woods on Tiger Woods at Nos. 13 and 14. Just when it looked like Woods might break the tie at 13 and go a shot or two ahead, Woods missed a 9-foot birdie putt and Yang saved a scrambling par from 6 feet. Then at 14, before Woods made a 9-foot birdie putt, Yang went ahead with a 60-foot chip-in for eagle.

We’ve seen Woods do that sort of thing to people for years. What’s new is that he took 33 putts when leading on a major Sunday.

• Yang is nothing if not likeable. Here’s an incredible snapshot that supports the thesis:

The week after he won the Honda Classic, a reporter congratulated him in passing at the WGC-CA Championship at Doral.

And what did Yang do? He stopped, pulled a camera out of his bag and took a photograph of the reporter.

True story. Not sure why it happened. The reporter suspects that Yang was flattered that an American recognized him and congratulated him.

I’m fairly certain Woods or Vijay Singh or anybody else has never photographed a reporter when congratulated for victory.

• Speaking of Singh, he was tough to watch in the third round at Hazeltine. Using a conventional grip on a conventional putter, he appeared to have the yips, missing three putts inside 5 feet.

At the British Open, Singh used a belly putter with a left-hand-low method and a high right-hand claw grip. Cross-handed, belly-claw sounds like the end of the food chain of putting grips, no?

What’s next, putting with the driver as Carlos Franco did 11 years ago on the final nine of PGA Tour Q-School finals?

• A buddy of mine had a few pops with Ernie Els’ sports psychologist one night at the PGA media hotel bar. During that hour, Els called the mental coach three times.

Based on the Big Easy’s opening 75, perhaps he should have been in the bar drinking with the shrink.

• Who could have imagined that Woods losing the PGA lead Sunday wouldn’t even be the news story of the week in Minnesota?

• Speaking of Brett Favre coming out of retirement again, this time to play for the Vikings, did you happen to catch that dirty, old, sweat-stained golf cap he wore to his news conference Tuesday?

Looked like the one he’s worn since his first year with the Packers.

• Speaking of Favre’s return, are you paying attention, Annika Sorenstam? The LPGA needs you far more than the Vikings need Favre.

• Woods has won five times this year following reconstructive knee surgery and has gone 1-1-2 in the last three weeks. What’s more, he’s a good bet to win a couple of FedEx Cup playoff events.

But I get the sense that some view his season as less than a success since he didn’t win a major.

When it comes to Woods, perceptions are way out of whack. It’s a shame any time a Tour victory of any kind becomes so cheap.

• A Tour rookie hasn’t won this year. The last season a rookie didn’t win was 1998. Before that, 1986. It’s only happened five times in the last 40 years.

Moral of the story: It’s not easy to win on Tour. Even for a guy wearing a red shirt.

• Worthy flashback: I just saw replay of Andrew Magee’s historic ace on the par-4, 333-yard 17th at the 2001 Phoenix Open, where his tee shot bounced off of Tom Byrum’s putter and into the hole. One of the shots of the year was followed by perhaps the quote of the year:

“It’s the only putt (Byrum) made all week,” Byrum’s caddie said.

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