Koreans pull off huge upset of Tiger-DJ

Tiger Woods of the U.S. reacts to a missed putt on the 14th hole during the Day 3 afternoon four-ball matches of the 2011 Presidents Cup.

Tiger Woods of the U.S. reacts to a missed putt on the 14th hole during the Day 3 afternoon four-ball matches of the 2011 Presidents Cup.

MELBOURNE, Australia - Do the Internationals have a chance on Sunday at the Presidents Cup? Perhaps, a very slim one at that.

“We have to do a Brookline (1999), need a miracle tomorrow,” says Ernie Els, whose International team will need to capture 8.5 of 12 points on the day to win the cup. But after the team dug itself into a five-point hole heading into Saturday afternoon fourballs, captain Greg Norman and his players should be relieved there is any chance at all.

Down 13-9, if the Internationals were to pull off the improbable and mount a stunning Sunday singles rally, much like the U.S. did 12 years ago at Brookline, then the team undoubtedly could credit a pivotal match captured in the rain and overcast chill of Royal Melbourne late Saturday, when the Internationals finally won a session (3-2).

Koreans Y.E. Yang and K.T. Kim, each of whom sat during Saturday’s morning foursomes and went into the afternoon having not earned a single point in three days, pulled off a shocker, upending Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson, the second-ranked American in the world, when Kim, a 25-year-old rookie, saved par with a slippery, sliding downhill 7-footer at the last.

David, meet Goliath.

“I think for the team it was enormous,” Norman said. “It was a big lift for all of us, no question about it. I had a sneaking suspicion this morning when we did the pairings and put them out there that they would do that.

“They are two very tenacious players. One (Yang) is the PGA Championship winner, obviously, so he knows how to deal with the pressure and the circumstances. And yet with K.T., Ryo Ishikawa told us that he's one of the best match players in the field. He loves match play more than he does stroke play from what I'm understanding. And it proved out today. I mean . . . that clutch putt, he hit a 7‑footer left‑to‑right down the hill at Royal Melbourne to win the match. Really impressive."

Kyung-Tae “K.T.” Kim, who has eight career victories in Asia and came into this event ranked 24th in the world, was also the man who turned around the match against Woods-Johnson. With Woods facing a 9-footer for birdie at the par-15th, a green he’d reached in two shots, and his own partner struggling to make par, Kim ran in a 28-footer up the hill for birdie to ignite an Aussie crowd that finally had something to cheer. Woods then watched his putt start left and turn dead right across the front of the cup, his ball staying above ground. Woods could not believe it stayed out. The Internationals had a 1-up lead with three to play.

It marked the third time in five holes the match experienced a sudden, Seismic shift. With Johnson and Woods each inside 8 feet for birdie at the par-4 11th, Yang rolled in a left-to-right slider for 3 that would stand up and win the hole when both Americans missed. One hole later, it was Woods who knocked in an 11-footer and Kim who missed from 6 feet.

It was this first time this week that Yang and Kim paired with one another, but the duo had success a few months back in the Japan-Korea matches, where they went 3-0. Kim had admitted to being nervous the first two days here at Royal Melbourne, but seemed a bit more relaxed alongside Yang.

“I think at the tail end, I think we trusted each other,” Kim said. “That’s probably the main reason why we won.”

For Yang, who at the 2009 PGA at Hazeltine became the first player to overtake Woods and win when Woods led through 54 holes at a major, Saturday’s victory helped ease the memory of his last Presidents Cup meeting against Woods, in 2009, when Woods waxed him in singles, 6 and 5.

“It’s always good to have a win,” Yang said. “Having it over Tiger is an extra perk, definitely.”

For Woods and Johnson, Saturday’s setback capped a disappointing two days of team play. Each player managed only a single full point in four matches (Woods is 1-3, Johnson 1-2-1). Johnson did not make a birdie in fourballs after the fifth hole, and he slipped to 1-5-1 when playing with a partner at the Ryder and Presidents Cups the last two autumns.

This wasn’t a wounded Tiger hitting the ball all over the lot that the Koreans took down on Saturday. His ballstriking was crisp and consistent, and faced with big tee shots on the last four holes, he blistered all four, finding fairways with three drivers and a 3-wood. He watched several putts burn the edges, though his 16-footer to halve the match at 18 drifted weakly to the low side of the cup, and never had a chance.

“I’m hitting it beautifully,” said Woods, “but lipouts just don’t get it done.”

Because the Presidents Cup draws are captain's choice, and not blind draw like the Ryder Cup, U.S. captain Fred Couples had a chance to re-pair Woods and Yang in Sunday singles. But after conferring at length with assistant Jay Haas, Couples decided to pass, installing Woods into the 11th slot and using Steve Stricker in the team’s anchor slot. Woods will face Aussie Aaron Baddeley in the penultimate match.

“We sat there and that's what we looked at,” said Couples. “You know, he played with Aaron Baddeley last week, I believe, in Sydney (at the Australian Open), and they had a great time. You know, we wanted Tiger to play Badds, not for any reason.”

As for Woods, before the singles draw took place, he said he had just one request for his captain.

“Just don’t put me in the envelope,” he said.

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