Y.E. Yang describes how he took down Tiger in ’09, life as a major winner and more

August 17, 2010

How is your life different now compared to one year ago?

On my first visit back to Korea after Hazeltine, there were a lot of welcomings from the people and the fans. That first morning at the airport there were so many reporters waiting. That was a big deal. Since the Presidents Cup last year I’ve been home twice, and it’s all been a great experience. I’m very fond of the PGA Championship; winning at Hazelitine kind of changed my life around. It’s a great memory.

What’s the best thing about being a major champion?

I think it’s the special trophy.

What’s it like to hoist the Wanamaker?

At first I tried to lift it with my arms, and then I had to bend and use my legs. The trophy is about half my size. It’s probably 30 pounds. But it feels good. Like a dream.

You used to be a competitive bodybuilder, so that had to prepare you for heavy trophies, right?

(smiles) Maybe.

Before Hazeltine, Tiger Woods had never lost a major when taking a lead into the final round. He was 14-for-14. How were you able to beat him?

This may sound weird, but I didn’t really think about trying to win. So maybe that’s what brought me the win.

What did you think about?

Only my swing. And green speeds. Just golf things.

What about on the final green? Did you start to think about winning then?

On the last green I was thinking, “Just two-putt.” (laughs) I had maybe 10 feet, breaking a little to the [left]. I didn’t think about a one-putt. Just two-putt.

What was your biggest purchase from your PGA Championship check?

I got a pretty nice watch.

You and Tiger squared off again one month later at the Presidents Cup. Have you spoken to each other since then?

Once in a while in the locker room, dining room, or clubhouse we say hello.

Do the two of you ever talk about that round?

No. (laughs) Yesterday he did talk about it a little bit at [at the Champions dinner]. He talked a little about losing to me at [the 2007 HSBC Championship] and at the PGA.

Has the memory of beating Tiger to win that title helped you in tournaments since then?

I try to get into that mindset of that last Sunday at Hazeltine when I’m playing now. Sometimes my mind gets ahead of myself and things do not work out as much. But I still try to remember that moment and try to get into that zone, that mindset that let me win the event.

The approach you hit from the rough on the 72nd hole stands as one of the most famous shots in the history of the event. That actual hybrid is still in your bag? Shouldn’t it be hanging over your fireplace?

I don’t know if I should tell you this, but that actual club is at home, in the study. I got another one made exactly the same and brought it out here.

See, that’s what I would do. Put that club away. How often do you think about that shot?

I think about that shot sometimes. That day I was really confident about my shot and I had a really good swing rhythm.

Are you satisfied with your performance this year?

I did pretty well at the Masters, and also in Phoenix. Then I went on to Europe and China, and eventually scored my personal worst at the U.S. Open. So my overall feelings about the season took a turn. But I’m trying to do better and hope things improve.

You’ve spent a lot of time at the range this week with your coach, [Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher] Brian Mogg. What are you working on?

Brian was mentioning that in my swing, sometimes my right shoulder will come out too much, and that would cause the swing to become inefficient. So we’ve been working on that, and also making sure the follow-through was high enough.

You planning to hit a lot of hybrids this week?

Yes. (laughs) I have a three, four and five. A couple months ago, I changed the five iron to a five rescue.

Hybrids seem to work well for you, so I don’t blame you for putting more in the bag. What’s your goal for this week?

Just top 10.

What about goals for your career? Does winning one big trophy change your mindset for the rest of your playing days?

Now that I have more opportunities to compete on the PGA Tour, I’m hoping to play well on tour for a long time.