CHASKA, Minn. - In a year of spoilers at the majors, Y.E. Yang was the biggest of all. He toppled the mighty Tiger Woods.
Yang became the first Asian-born player to win a major Sunday with a stunning performance in the PGA Championship, memorable as much for his clutch shots as the player he beat.
Woods was 14-0 when he went into the final round of a major atop the leaderboard. He had not lost any tournament around the world in nine years when leading by two shots.
None of that mattered to Yang, a 37-year-old South Korean who hit the shots everyone expected from Woods. Leading by one on the final hole, Yang slayed golf's giant with a hybrid 3-iron that cleared the bunker and settled 12 feet from the cup.
Yang made the birdie putt and shouted with joy as he pumped his fist. That gave him 2-under 70 and a three-shot victory when Woods missed yet another short par putt and shot 75.
"I tried to master the art of controlling my emotions throughout the small wins I had in my career," Yang said through his agent, Michael Yim. "I think it turned out quite well today."
His victory is massive for Asia, the fastest-growing market in golf. Perhaps even more significant is the way he stood up to Woods, the world's No. 1 player whose heritage is half-Asian through his Thai-born mother.
Yang and K.J. Choi are the only PGA Tour players who learned golf in South Korea before coming to America.
For Woods, it was the second time he has finished runner-up in the PGA Championship at Hazeltine, both times to a surprise winner. Seven years ago, he birdied the last four holes and came up one short of Rich Beem. This time,Woods made one mistake after another over the last four holes, mostly with his putter.
"I did everything I needed to do, except for getting the ball in the hole," Woods said. "Just didn't make the putts when I needed to make them."
Yang took the lead for the first time all week by chipping in for eagle from about 20 yards short of the 14th green. And when it looked as though nerves were getting the best of him on a three-putt bogey at the 17th, he delivered his two most important shots.
Yang still had enough strength left to hoist his golf bag over his head, and later the 44-pound Wanamaker Trophy.
"I played well enough the entire week to win the championship," Woods said. "You have to make putts. I didn't do that. Today was a day that didn't happen."
The top four finishers at the PGA Championship earned automatic bids to the 2010 Masters Tournament. They are: Y.E. Yang, Tiger Woods, Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy.
Each of the four major tournaments in 2009 featured surprising winners:
- Angel Cabrera won his first green jacket at the Masters.
- Lucas Glover claimed his first major at the U.S. Open.
- Stewart Cink prevailed in a playoff at the British Open.
- Y.E. Yang took the PGA Championship on Sunday.