Not done yet
Yang preaching patience to naysayers
By Kang Seung-woo
ICHEON, Gyeonggi Province — After rallying to defeat Tiger Woods in the final round of the PGA Championship in 2009, Yang Yong-eun came from nowhere to become a national hero.
However, since the breakthrough victory, he has made little noise on the PGA Tour and critics question if he still has anything left in his tank.
But the two-time tour winner gave a message to his knockers: success comes, just all in good time.
“When I claimed the PGA Championship in 2009, probably everyone from players to galleries to spectators thought that I would not pull away to win (against Woods), but I did. Like then, I am trying not to worry about negative things said about me and I do not have to shoulder them. All I need to do is to just focus on my game without being swayed by critics who say I have nothing to give,” Yang said in an interview with The Korea Times.
Yang, the only player to hand a come-from-behind loss to Woods on the final day when the American had a 54-hole lead at a major tournament, along with being the first Asian winner of a major, made top 10 finishes twice in 2010 and five times in 2011 including a tie for third at the U.S. Open. But this feat was not enough to satisfy local golf fans whose sights had already heightened due to Koreans’ frequent victories on the LPGA Tour.
“Despite finishing second or third, some still say that I may not win any more tournaments but I pay little attention to not winning a title.
“But I say they need to remain patient and I will have the success they want to see.”
In order to end his title drought, Yang, who joined the U.S. Tour in 2008, has made the bold decision to change his swing.
“Although I did not have a bad record last season, I decided to change my swing (to build better achievements) two or three weeks ahead of the beginning of the new season and since then, I have worked on it. Due to this, I have poorer results than last year,” Yang said.
In eight appearances on the PGA Tour this season, he has managed a top-25 finish only once.
“I do not know for sure when my swing will completely get on track but I feel that it has steadily improved. In order to do better than last season, I made the decision and as I am trying my best, I look forward to it paying off in the near future,” he said.
His bid to show that he still can play at a championship level continues this week at the Ballantine’s Championship in his home country.
The 2.2 million-euro tournament, founded in 2008, is the only European Tour event staged in Korea and is the first competition co-sanctioned by the Korean PGA, the Asian and European Tours.
Despite rare appearances in front of local fans, he has made few headlines in his past three outings here, with a tie for 40th in 2008 his best result. He missed the cut in 2010 and 2011.
“I cannot explain the exact reason for my struggling at the Ballantine’s. Perhaps, I think caring too much about performing well in front of home fans affected my game,” he said.
Yang has set his sights on doing better this year.
“First, I plan to make the top five, and if luck permits me, I want to win the title,” he said.
Yang, who first started playing by teaching himself through watching tournaments on TV and videotapes, saw Bubba Watson, another self-taught golfer on the PGA Tour, take the Masters earlier this month and the native of Jeju Island has been spurred to stand atop the leaderboard again.
“He did great at the Masters and his victory as a self-taught golfer encouraged me to play better and produce good scores in every tournament in which I take part,” Yang said.