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How Y.E. Yang stood up to Tiger Woods – and shocked the world

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He measures his success by victories in the majors, and Sunday’s loss at the PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minn., was his last chance this year to win one of the big four, after coming up short in the Masters, the US Open, and the British Open, where he didn’t even make the cut.

Even worse, he lost Sunday after going into the round with a two-shot lead, something he had never done in 14 previous majors when he was leading on the last day. And who was this Yang guy, anyway? The native South Korean didn’t take up golf until he was 19. Woods, seemingly, took it up at 19 days. Yang taught himself at a driving range outside Seoul almost as an afterthought.

Woods was trained by his father from the time he was teething to win tournaments – and did. Woods has won 70 PGA Tour victories. Yang, only one.

“Until I was 19 and picked up my first club, I was like anybody else in the world, just an average Joe,” Yang said. “Then I feel in love with golf.”

Yet it was the indefatigable South Korean who was hoisting the trophy at the end of the day on Sunday – and getting a congratulatory call from South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak, which underscores how big a victory this was in his homeland.

In fact, Yang’s victory marked the first ever by an Asian-born player in one of golf’s four majors.

His storybook triumph will, no doubt, inspire a new generation of South Koreans – and perhaps Asians – to pick up a wedge and a hybrid club. It’s not that golf isn’t already popular in the region. It is. Wildly. But look what fellow countryman Se Ri Pak’s victories on the LPGA Tour starting in the late 1990s did for young women in South Korea. There are now so many talented young South Koreans on the American women’s tour that on some Sundays the leader board reads like the Seoul phonebook.

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