Introspective Yang still marvels over historic PGA Championship win

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Y.E. Yang made history at the 2009 PGA Championship when he became the first Asian-born player to win a men's major championship.
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PGA of America
PGA.com

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Published: Tuesday, June 15, 2010 | 10:01 a.m.

A highlight video of the final moments of the 2009 PGA Championship was playing on a large screen to the left of where Y.E. Yang was seated Monday afternoon at Whistling Straits.

Though his interpreter huddled beside him, there was no need to fully translate what Yang, the defending PGA Champion, was feeling as he watched that video.

Yang's eyes began to well as he was pressed to once more share his thoughts about a historic Sunday victory last August at Hazeltine National Golf Club.

"It's like a nice movie," Yang said through interpreter, Ryan Park. "I'm trying hard not to shed any tears. It still feels like a dream."

Yang, 38, the first Asian male to win one of golf's four major championships, was guest of honor at the 92nd PGA Championship Media Day, a prelude to the season's final major which is returning, Aug. 8-15, to the shores of Lake Michigan.

Seated a few chairs to Yang's right was Herb Kohler Jr., president and chairman of Kohler Company, who is a fan of history and the man instrumental in developing Whistling Straits into major caliber for a PGA Championship in 2004, and ultimately the Championship's return this year.

"I think that it's high time we have another Korean [Champion]," said Kohler, referring to 1998, when South Korean Se Ri Pak captured the U.S. Women's Open at Blackwolf Run in the Village of Kohler, some 20 minutes southwest of Whistling Straits.

The Media Day was Yang's lone opportunity to get a practice round on Whistling Straits' demanding 7,507-yard layout. He was candid about his debut on the course.

"You can't see the fairway. You only see the fescue," Yang said with a slight grin. "It's daunting, it's difficult. It's a difficult golf course."

When asked how he scored, Yang didn't need his interpreter through some of his post-game review.

"Ah, bogey, double bogey, bogey. . .ah, bogey . . .5-over the first nine," Yang offered. "Then bogey on 10, bogey, bogey. . .Finish 5-over-par."

Kohler reported that Whistling Straits' challenging 18th hole will provide an opportunity for players to use the driver.

"A number of players said after playing in '04 that it would be appropriate that one would be able to use your driver on 18," said Kohler. "We checked with Pete [Dye, Whistling Straits' architect] for modifications."

Hence, Whistling Straits' 18th will have its fairway extended down the left side of the creek.

"I think there will be two changes this year," said Kohler. "One in approaching 18 and the second is how [PGA Managing Director of Championships] Kerry Haigh manages the tees and pins.

"I felt that Kerry's level of confidence in managing this course has improved tremendously. He will approach this first day with more confidence than he did in '04. All of the horror stories leading up to the first round of '04 did not materialize."

Kohler acknowledged that Whistling Straits can be "seven to 10 strokes harder when the wind is swirling."

"In 2004, it was relatively benign," said Kohler, during a week when Vijay Singh captured the Championship in a playoff. "We normally have changing winds all the time."

Yang said that despite his schedule preventing another early return to Wisconsin, he would be in Scotland for two weeks to practice on links courses in preparation for the British Open at St. Andrews.

He also returned to more personal thoughts about being honored to have his name inscribed on the base of the Wanamaker Trophy, first awarded in 1916 as the signature hardware of a PGA Champion.

"When I see the clips of my win, it feels like I am looking at someone else's video," Yang said. "It feels like someone else's name. It is hard to believe that I did accomplish that feat."

He was asked to rate what shot was the most important in his Sunday take-down of Tiger Woods on a Sunday -- was it the chip-in for eagle at 14 or the 3-hybrid approach over a tree at 18 for birdie?

"I'd have to go with the chip-in," said Yang, "that gave me the lead. But, if I had squandered the shot at 18, then someone else would have been seated here today."