Y.E. Yang is doing things he’s not supposed to be doing again.
Nobody was supposed to take down Tiger Woods in a major when Woods held a 54-hole lead. And major champions aren’t supposed to Monday qualify for PGA Tour events. Yang can now say he’s done both.
The 2009 PGA Championship winner earned the nickname “Tiger Killer” after his unthinkable come-from-behind victory over Woods. People always forget that Yang’s Tiger killing extended further than the 2009 PGA Championship–he beat GOAT in a playoff for the HSBC Champions back in 2006. Now, “Tiger Killer” is in the AT&T Byron Nelson field after a somewhat epic run on Monday.
Yang seemed destined to spend his week on the couch when made the turn at 1-over in his qualifying round. But then he rattled off six birdies on the back nine to shoot 67 and get into a playoff. He ultimately survived to claim one of the four spots up for grabs.
Despite two wins, including a major, in 2009, not even Yang himself believed he was poised for a run as one of golf’s elite at the time.
“This might be my last win as a golfer,” Yang said after his triumph over Tiger.
So far, his prediction is spot on. After missing the FedEx Cup playoffs in 2012 and 2013, Yang needed a strong 2014 if he wanted to keep his PGA Tour card. Instead, he missed 10 consecutive cuts heading into the final regular season event to seal his fate.
Despite a nice rally on Monday, Yang’s chances of earning a paycheck this week don’t look good. After a 4-over 74 to open, he’ll need to summon some of his 2009 magic in order to stick around for the weekend.
Attempting to overcome the long odds of making a comeback on the PGA Tour is commendable. The fact that Yang is willing to go through Monday qualifying–rather than only hold out for sponsor exemptions–is even more noble. However, Yang’s best chance at a comeback in the United States is still five years away–the 45 year-old will be eligible for the Champions Tour in 2022. Perhaps we’ll see more epic Woods vs. Yang showdowns on the senior circuit once Woods is eligible in the late 2020s.