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Under the radar

Y.E. Yang isn't concerned that he's not a superstar in America after his defeat of Tiger Woods last year. After all, he notes, he's a national hero back in Korea and now is in the company of the game's greatest players.

Y.E. Yang, Champions Dinner

For the Tuesday night Champions' Dinner, Y.E. Yang and wife Young Ju Park enlisted the help of some of Korea's finest chefs. (Montana Pritchard/The PGA of America)

By Stan Awtrey, PGATOUR.COM Contributor

KOHLER, Wis. – If Y.E. Yang is upset by the lack of attention he's received on the eve of defending his PGA Championship, he certainly isn’t showing it.

A year ago, Yang held off Tiger Woods down the stretch at Hazeltine National to become the first Asian-born player to win a major championship. On Wednesday afternoon, fewer than two dozen reporters and broadcasters attended the champion's press conference, about a hundred fewer than had jammed in the room to previous day to listen to Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson.

“It's been a year since my PGA win, so maybe I'm kind of out of the spotlight a little bit,” Yang said. “And for the past year I haven't been doing that great and maybe people think that I may not win this one again. So in that respect maybe that's why I am flying under the radar.”

Yang has had his moments this year; he tied for eighth at the Masters, his best showing in a major for 2010. In 17 PGA Tour events, Yang's best finish was a third-place showing at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Yang has maintained an even disposition, despite the newly found notoriety at home in Korea. His victory made him a national hero and inspired throngs of people to greet him at the airport at his hometown of Jeju Island. The fans were so crazed during one visit that they shredded the jackets of the six-man security detail that had been hired to protect him.

“When we were in my hometown, I was walking up front and the bodyguards kind of couldn't catch up,” he said. “So I was trying to figure out what was going on. It turns out all their jackets and suits were all ripped up because there were so many fans that wanted to get my autograph. I mean, no one was hurt in the process, but it was kind of funny to see those big bodyguards and their clothes getting ripped up like that. So that was interesting.”

Yang also had the chance to select the menu for the PGA Champion's Dinner. After getting some input from several sources, including Korea's First Lady, Yang designed a menu that showcased some of his country's favorite cuisine. There was kimchi and rice, a marinated beef dish known as kai bi, Korean style vegetables and a dessert.

“It was kind of sureal to realize that I am introducing Korean food to these extraordinary people,” Yang said.

It will also be a bit surreal for Yang in the first two rounds of his title defense. He's paired with Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh on Thursday and Friday.

“I'll be playing with two legendary golfers,” Yang said. “I think the next two days are going to be ones that I'll remember for the rest of my life. I hope to go out there and kind of have fun and enjoy the experience.”