PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Reverse was the order of the day at the Honda Classic on Saturday, as most of the field could never find the right gear, falling backwards.
But 2009 Honda Classic champion Y.E. Yang found the conditions to his liking, and on “moving day” did just that. Yang moved on to the leaderboard and into contention with the low round of the day, a 3-under 67 at PGA National’s Champion Course.
Yang started the day T-43, 1 under and eight shots off the lead of PGA Tour rookie Luke Guthrie.
When Yang teed off at 10:03 a.m., the wind was blowing 10- 20 mph out of the northwest. As the round progressed, the wind increased to 15-25 mph, with gusts of up to 32 mph.
In the low window of opportunity from the start of his round until the weather got more difficult, Yang took advantage of the conditions. He made birdies on Nos. 3 and 4, then played steady golf the rest of the way.
“I don’t like low-scoring tournaments or golf courses,” Yang said after his bogey-free round. “I usually tend to be a little more focused on the difficult courses. Each shot is really valuable.”
Though the direction of the wind didn’t change, the Champion Course became a watery torture chamber, with player after player coming in over par. Of the 72 players who made the cut, only eight were under par, and 55 players were over par.
“With the wind blowing this much and the conditions that they are, you know that everybody is going to struggle, so every birdie – and even every par – is going to be valuable,” Yang said. “If you just make 1 or 2 under for the round, I know I was going to move up.
Yang has struggled to put four good rounds together this year. Since opening his season with a T-20 in the Sony Open, Yang had broken 70 only once, with a 6-under 65 in the first round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
Even in Friday’s second round, Yang struggled to a 2-over 72, but now finds himself tied for seventh, four shots behind co-leaders Michael Thompson and Guthrie.
Yang conceded that his putting has been a problem this year. The South Korean is 64th in strokes-gained putting and 103rd in putting average, with his biggest issue being putts between 10 and 15 feet.
Yang tends to come out of the putt too soon and not stay down through the hitting area, but he sees progress.
“This season, I have been struggling to have a consistent performance over four rounds,” Yang said. “I was due for something like this. Hopefully I can play like this tomorrow, as well, but at the same time try to maintain that rhythm, that swing and everything that I have been practicing the last few weeks.”