Stewart Cink would love to add a Wanamaker Trophy to his Claret Jug. (Photo: Getty Images)
Auclair's Live Blog: Sunday Reports from Hazeltine
Once again, PGA.com's T.J. Auclair has drawn the tough assignment. We're sending him out on the course all four days of the 91st PGA Championship to tell us what he sees, hears and thinks at Hazeltine National. We know, it's a tough job, but somebody has to do it. Say "thank you," T.J. 6:30 PM CDT --
Well, ladies and gentlemen, that will do it for the 2009 PGA Championship Live Blog.
It was an amazing week, capped off by a historical win. Thank you all for reading.
Hopefully my editor will let me do it all again next year.
Editor's Note: Next year? All I know is if the sun doesn't come up tomorrow, you are in big, big trouble, mister. As for next year, I'll ask Cassandra if she thinks it's a good idea.
6:05 PM CDT -- I don't believe what I just saw. Y.E. Yang just birdied the last hole to deny Tiger Woods his 15th major win.
With a Tiger bogey it's a three-shot win for Yang.
I'm standing among a cluster of people surrounding Yang's wife, who is crying and shaking her head in disbelief with an ear-to-ear smile.
A defeated Tiger Woods just walked by. He's never experienced this before.
Incredible moment in sports. Yang is the first Asian man to win a major championship.
It's certainly not how I expected it to end, but it made for an unforgettable week nonetheless.
Y.E. Yang will never be known as the best player never to have won a major.
5:50 PM CDT -- From Michael Humphries in Australia:
"Trying to watch the leaderboard from Sydney, Australia, what is the tension like on the course?"
The tension is incredible and Tiger has a great opportunity on No. 16 to give Yang something to think about. Tiger has a 12 foot par putt and Yang is just inside of Tiger after a poor birdie effort ...
Suddenly Yang's poor putt isn't so bad. Tiger can't get anything going and is clearly frustrated with his putter. It's another bogey for Tiger.
From 8 feet, Yang just missed on the right edge for par and will take a one-shot lead to the final hole. He's almost about to pull off what was believed to be impossible.
5:45 PM CDT -- Yang's lead remains intact at one shot with two holes to play.
I've noticed there are three types of fans out here -- those supporting Woods, those supporting Yang and those supporting a Yang meltdown, yelling for him to miss. Those so-called fans, aren't the Tiger supporters. They're class-less and luckily there are only a few of them.
Yang still has his work cut out, but he's not showing any signs of fading away.
Will this be the major that got away from Tiger? He's not playing badly, Yang is playing exceptional and, if he wins, is incredibly deserving of hoisting the Wanamaker Trophy.
5:20 PM CDT -- From Grega Perne in Slovenia (I hear the blog is huge in Slovenia):
"Hey TJ! This is Grega from Slovenia. A small country in Central Europe. First I wanted to let you know that I really love reading your blog these days! Great work and I think we're all having a lot of fun reading it. Some really fun comments. I read in the blog the second day that you have already covered 60 majors? And I read that you are 29, so you started when you were 14? Impressive. Now, with that eagle Yang made, what do you think the chances are of sun not rising tomorrow morning? :) Keep up the good work !"
Grega, thanks for the kind words. Yes, this is right around 60 majors for me. I started with the 1995 U.S. Open at age 15 and count some Senior PGA Championships among that "near 60" figure.
And, what can I say? I'm a moron. This thing is far from over, but I can't say enough about Y.E. Yang. What a player! I'm glad I didn't say I'd eat my iPhone if he won. I recently had four impacted wisdom teeth removed and it would have been hard to chew.
Back to the action on 15 ... Three guys just started a chant in the fairway, "Y...E...Y...E.S...YES! YES! YES!" Y.E. proceeded to make par and Tiger burned the left edge with his birdie try. It's a one-shot lead for Yang with three to play. Uh-oh.
The sun's gotta rise tomorrow, right?
5:02 PM CDT -- Peter Roman checked in from parts unknown wanting to know how Harrington made that eight on the par-3 eighth.
Well, Peter, I've been with Tiger all day and didn't actually see it, but I'm told he hit his tee shot in the water. From the drop area, he yanked his approach left and into the rough. With his fourth shot, he sent his chip over the green and into the water, chunked a second chip, chipped to 6 feet and made the putt.
Breaking news: Y.E. Yang might be a Tiger slayer. He just chipped in for eagle on No. 14 from 20 yards away and sent the crowd into a frenzy with a double fist pump.
Tiger meanwhile, holed a must-make 6-footer for birdie and now trails Yang by one at 8 under. This is unbelievable!
4:40 PM CDT -- Tiger gave his birdie right back at No. 12. A misguided tee shot into the left rough led to an approach that went over the green and he failed to get up and down.
Yang made another solid par and doesn't seem ready to go anywhere. He's hanging in there beautifully and is tied for the lead at 6 under.
4:30 PM CDT -- I'm not going to say I told you so, but ... Tiger just made birdie with two putts after getting home in two at the par-5 11th to take a one-shot lead over Yang at 7 under.
There are two more birdie chances coming up, but it's sure not going to be easy. This wind is blowing as hard now as ever. Looks like we have a two-horse race on our hands now.
4 PM CDT -- From Nathan Spann in San Diego:
"Is tiger suffering from paralysis by analysis? It sure seems that way from here. Some questionable decisions thus far ... a 6 iron on the par 3. Is the wind blowing that hard, because the flag is not really indicating this ... Tiger will not win by playing prevent defense, yang is on the prowl."
It might not be translating on your television, but that wind is whipping out here. It's really messing with Tiger. He's backed off of a number of shots on the front nine, as the wind is playing tricks on him.
Yang doesn't seem as bothered by the wind, but there's no doubt it's blowing.
Regarding the notion that Tiger is playing defense, I prefer to think he's staying away from mistakes and hence a big number -- see Harrington.
Tiger knows there are few birdie chances on the back -- the two par 5s, Nos. 11 and 15 -- as well as the driveable par-4 14th.
Trust me, Tiger knows how to win a major. What he's doing now is calculated, minus that short par miss early in the round.
-- Fortunate break for Tiger on No. 10. He got a member's bounce off a tree to the right of the fairway and wound up with a perfect angle to the hole after his ball clanked back into the short grass.
Nathan, I'm not convinced it was a calculated move for Tiger to hit that tree, but it did lead to a par and he remains tied for the lead with Yang at 6 under.
3:40 PM CDT -- Got word a few minutes ago that Harrington made a huge number on the par-3 eighth. Can we get confirmation, Mr. Editor?
If that's the case, after Tiger's bogey at No. 8 -- it took three shots to get on the green -- and Yang's par -- he missed a 6-foot birdie try -- the two are tied for the lead at 6 under with Paddy now out of sight.
Editor's Note: Huge is not the word. Gargantuan is more like it. Ireland's favorite son made a quintuple-bogey 8 on the eighth, with two balls in the water, a chunked chip and one shot that nearly hit his playing competitor Henrik Stenson, who was standing next to the green. When the dust settled, Harrington had fallen from 6-under to 1-under and out of contention. Say goodnight, Paddy.
3:25 PM CDT -- We just had an interesting spectator at No. 7 ... a turtle.
The turtle clearly wanted a closer look at the action, as he moved as quickly as a turtle can across the fairway and into the pond that skirts the left side of the green.
Here on the par-5 seventh, some frustrated fans are talking about how they haven't seen Tiger hit a good shot yet. I guess they were disappointed that he played it safe and laid up.
Yang, on the other hand, went well right of the green, taking no chance of flirting with the water and wound up on the other side of the ropes with a nearly impossible shot to the hole. He hit a fantastic flop that ran out 30 feet past the hole and two-putted for par.
3:15 PM CDT -- Yang made a bogey on No. 5 after his approach shot went well right of the green, leaving a tight angle to the hole and failing to get up and down.
Yang was wild right with his tee shot on No. 6, but punched a miraculous recovery shot from under tree branches to about 15 feet for an unlikely par.
Tiger's steady play continued with two solid pars.
2:50 PM CDT -- From Scott Noll in Dallas:
"T.J., what else can you tell us about Y.E. Yang. I just heard Jim Nantz say that he recently moved to Dallas, TX. Is that true? Seems to me that this area is again growing as a burgeoning stomping ground for some pretty good golfers. Thanks."
Let's see ... What else about Yang? He's looking to become the first South Korean to win a major.
As for living in Dallas, it's true. Fellow South Korean K.J. Choi also calls Dallas home. Choi made the move because he said there's a strong Korean community there, which makes the transition to the U.S. a little more comfortable.
And further to your point, not only Dallas, but all of Texas has always brought it strong with golf talent -- Hogan, Nelson, Crenshaw, Leonard -- all major champs.
Tiger doesn't call Dallas home, which might be the reason why he just missed a short par putt on No. 4 and is now tied for the lead at 7 under after that bogey. This is a huge deal. Tiger has never coughed up a major when leading after 54 holes. He's a perfect 14 for 14.
2:35 PM CDT -- OK, I'm officially finished with trying to figure out this weather. I just got pelted with a few raindrops after mentioning the sun came out again.
So far, amongst the showering of admiration for Tiger, I've also heard several people yell out "let's go, Y.E.!," which is usually followed by some laughter.
I'm not sure if the support is sincere or not, but Yang seems to appreciate and enjoy it.
Regarding the action, Tiger made fairly standard pars on Nos. 2 and 3, while Yang countered with a par and a birdie to pull within one of the lead.
I've got a beautiful vantage point behind the tee at the fourth hole. Fans are packed 20-deep along the ropes. Great atmosphere.
2 PM CDT -- The sun is out in force now that Tiger has set out on his bid for major No. 15. It looks like the threatening skies are moving away from Hazeltine just like in Oak Park, Ill., where our friend Cassanda reports that it's nice and dry.
After a par for Tiger at No. 1, I'm near the fairway at No. 2, thanks to my editor, who's also like a dad. He let me borrow his rain pants so I wouldn't get wet kneeling and sitting down inside the ropes. What a guy.
Tiger's wearing his patented red Sunday shirt (which has light-red stripes), with black slacks and a black Nike hat.
Editor's Note: Unlike you, junior, I was a Boy Scout. And all these many years later I can still recite from memory (and without missing a single word) both the Boy Scout Oath and Law. If you ever decide to return to the Media Center and do some real work, I'll prove it to you.
1:30 PM CDT -- In 15 minutes, Tiger and Y.E. Yang will set out for the final round.
Tiger wrapped up his preparations on the practice range a few minutes ago and walked off to the right to work on the short game.
If you don't know Yang, you should. He beat Tiger by two shots at the HSBC Champions Tournament in China in 2006. Yang also won earlier this year on the PGA Tour at the Honda Classic.
The chances of Yang, or anyone else for that matter, taking down Tiger today are slim at best. Just don't think that Yang isn't a worthy contender.
Finally, the wind is going to have an impact on how this leaderboard shakes out over the next 5 1/2 hours. It will be blowing up around 20 mph, which is only going to make Hazeltine that much more difficult. Also, that rain hasn't gone away just yet. By the looks of things on the practice green just to the left of the first tee, Tiger will be starting his final round with rain gear on.
1:15 PM CDT -- Phil Mickelson finished off his disappointing PGA Championship with a 4-over 76 today. It was the second straight 76 for Lefty.
"The last two weeks have been frustrating with my play," Mickelson said. "I'll have, fortunately, a week off before we start the FedExCup. And I'll see if I can get my game turned around for Barclays."
So who would Lefty like to see win this PGA Championship?
"I'd like to see it be a fun competitive finish," he said. "I think the majors have been exciting to the end. I think I'd like to see that. There's a good chance that Tiger could pull away like he usually does. But Padraig has been playing tough and I haven't really looked at the leaderboard. I know there's somebody else at 6, too. Y.E. Yang. And a bunch of other players. So I hope that it comes down to the last few holes, because the last few majors have been exciting."
12:45 PM CDT -- As I walked out to the range a moment ago, it began to rain. According to the forecast the rain was supposed to have moved past Hazeltine by now.
It's certainly not heavy enough to threaten any kind of delay, but it's steady enough that I'm running in to see if I can borrow someone's rain jacket.
I'm not in the direct line of the range at the moment, so I haven't seen him with my own eyes, but it's clear that Tiger Woods has just stepped on to the range based on the commotion and the Tiger chants.
With a two-shot lead and 18 holes left to play, here's my expert opinion: Tiger will leave Hazeltine with major victory No. 15.
Don't you feel enlightened?
Editor's Note: Enlightened, hardly. Humored by your lack of proper attire, oh yeah. Obviously, as a young lad you were not a member of the Boy Scouts of America, whose motto is BE PREPARED!
12 PM CDT -- We're geared up and ready for an action-packed final round of the 91st PGA Championship here at Hazeltine.
Actually, I'm not exactly geared up. The forecast called for some wet weather, but when I drew back the curtains at the hotel, the weather looked perfect, so I decided to leave the rain gear in the room ...
... And then I took a 30-minute bus ride over to Hazeltine, where it's dark and gloomy. Uh-oh.
The good news is that the weather hasn't messed with the final round yet and it's expected to clear up as the day wears on.
I'll be setting out onto the course momentarily, but before I do, I've already received a couple of emails that deserve answering.
This first one comes from Seth and Emily Garthee from the town of Lincoln in my home state of Rhode Island:
Wondering if you'd like to make a friendly wager? What will happen more today, Tiger temper tantrums or emails you receive from Cassandra Hutchinson in Oak Park, Ill.? While I'm on the subject, does anyone else on tour show their "frustration" (Zorro move after the third shot on 15 yesterday) as much as Tiger? And, would someone please do something about it before my kids start smashing their plastic putters around their swing set?!
I'll answer this question backwards. You'll know why in a second (I think you know what's coming).
There are plenty of guys on the tour who show every bit as much emotion as Tiger does. The problem is you don't see it because those other guys aren't Tiger Woods. They don't get followed around by hundreds of cameras every step of the way. That doesn't make Tiger's "temper tantrums," as you call them, OK. It just means you're more likely to see his than anyone else's because of the incredible microscope he's under.
In a press conference earlier this week, someone asked Tiger about this very subject and the effect his actions on the course might have on children like yours.
"It is what it is," Tiger said. "Unfortunately I do make mistakes, and I hit bad shots and I say bad things at times. I don't mean to; it just comes out. It's not something that I try and do. It just happens. Have I been trying to get better at that? Yeah, my entire life. But it happens from time to time, and I'm not the only person that does it."
Bottom line here is that we all have lapses in judgment every day. Sure, Tiger should probably be more aware of the impact of his actions. But, something tells me that aside from the occasional outburst, parents are thrilled to have such a determined, confident and inspirational role model for their children. Parents sometimes slip up and swear in front of their kids, too.
As for that friendly wager ... Something tells me there will be more emails from Cassandra today than Tiger tantrums ... And what do you know! A quick refresh of the inbox and guess who's checking in from Oak Park, Ill.?
... It's Cassandra!
Good Sunday Morning TJ --
Can't wait to see how the round unfolds, but either way it's never a loss when Tiger is in the field -- in my opinion. I think his consistency as a winner has helped to motivate most players to strive for their own personal best achievements on the course. There is a lot of great talent in the field from week to week and it's good to see that talent move up the leaderboard.
I think what makes Tiger's accomplishment so astounding is the fact that he has faced a variety of playing partners and their style of play over the years in final rounds that he is contending in and he is still primarily able to get the win.
As I understand it from listening to the live commentary on PGA.com, if there isn't a Monday playoff round to the PGA Championship, the media gets an opportunity to play a round on the PGA Championship course. Have you ever done this? What was your favorite course to play on or best score recorded?
This is fun.
Good Sunday to you as well, Cassandra. This is fun. And don't worry too much about Seth and Emily. They're just having fun, too. We here at the Auclair Blog love your emails.
Your opinion is shared by many -– it truly is never a loss when Tiger is in the field and even better if he's contending.
As for that rumor you're hearing on PGA.com, I wish my colleagues would zip it! First off, a Monday playoff is only a concern at the U.S. Open. If there's a tie after 72 holes at a U.S. Open, the players return to the course the next morning for an incredibly anticlimactic, excruciating 18-hole playoff (unless, of course, it's Tiger and Rocco at Torrey Pines!). At the PGA Championship, it's different. If there's a tie after 72 holes here, the players go back out for a three-hole playoff, which I think is magnificent and I'm not just singing the company line here. Three holes are perfect to settle it. If a player messes up the first hole, he has two more to redeem himself and I like that.
As for the media day, the rumors you hear are true. I have played in a few, the last of which was at Medinah in 2006. I've also played at Oak Tree in Edmond, Okla., and the Kiawah Island Ocean Course in South Carolina after Senior PGA Championships. My best score? If I revealed that, I wouldn't be allowed to have an opinion on professional golf ever again, so I'll give you the ole, "No comment."
I don't take advantage of this perk nearly as often as I should. That's mainly because if there are pros that have a hard time breaking 80 on the set up, I'm probably going to have a hard time breaking 120.
That's not fun to me.
Seth and Emily, please check your email for my mailing address so you can send that check along.
Editor's Note: Yours truly has also participated in many Monday media outings after majors and can attest that the courses are excruciatingly difficult. The average golfer has no idea how difficult and penal these courses are -- especially the rough -- which makes us hacks appreciate the tour pros' incredible talents that much more. As for our esteemed blogger's performance on a major championship layout -- a frightening display of futility that I have had the misfortune of witnessing more than once -- well, all I'll say is that the other members of his foursome usually bring along a hard hat and protective cup, just in case.