Yang, Woods encore set for PGA Championship

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.

KOHLER, Wisconsin (USA) – (Y.E.) Yang Yong-eun is assured of returning to the international spotlight when he defends his U.S. PGA Championship crown this week.

The South Korean has been paired with Tiger Woods for the first two rounds at Whistling Straits on Thursday and Friday.

It’s a rematch of last year’s dramatic final round at Hazeltine, when Yang shot down Woods and became the first Asian male to win a major title.

Yang, who overcame a two-shot overnight deficit, is the only player to beat Woods in a major championship when Woods has held the 54-hole lead.

Yang admits he sometimes still has to pinch himself to be convinced that it is he, and not an impostor, who has his name inscribed on the Wanamaker Trophy, alongside golfing legends Walter Hagen, Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan and Jack Nicklaus.

“Even though it’s been a year now since I won the PGA Championship, it feels like a dream still," Yang said. "When I see clips of my win it feels like I’m looking at somebody else’s video. It doesn’t really feel like I did that. It’s like a murky dream to me.

“But once in a while, when somebody asks me that question or mentions that, it sort of hammers into me that I did actually accomplish such a feat."

No doubt Yang would dearly love to have that feeling again – and hold onto it for even longer. Yet having seen first hand the 7,514-yard Pete Dye creation along the shores of Lake Michigan, he’s under no illusions.

“It’s very hard. The greens, the bunkers, the rough ... everything is difficult," he said. “Off the tees, you can’t see the fairways. It seems like it’s just fescue everywhere. You can’t really locate the fairways.

“You have to play a bit conservative; you can’t be aggressive. But at the same time you have to have a balance between your game and being conservative."

This week is also Woods’ last chance this year to add to his tally of 14 major championships. But if his performance at last week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational is any indication (T-78), he could continue his winless 2010. Yang finished T-46.

Joining Yang and Woods for the opening 36 holes at the PGA Championship is Fijian Vijay Singh, who won the tournament in 2004.

Other high-profile pairings include Masters champion Phil Mickelson alongside U.S. Open winner Graeme McDowell and Open Championship winner Louis Oosthuizen.

In a battle of the young guns, rising American star Rickie Fowler is paired with Japanese teenager Ryo Ishikawa.

And spare a thought for Hiroyuki Fujita who has the misfortune to play with Bubba Watson and Alvaro Quiros, arguably the two longest hitters in the game.

Eleven PGA Champions are in the field this week: Mark Brooks, John Daly, Steve Elkington, Padraig Harrington, Davis Love III, Shaun Micheel, Mickelson, Singh, David Toms, Woods and Yang.

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