by Jeff Skinner
Y.E. Yang accomplished something no Asian golfer had ever done before on Sunday when he won the PGA Championship. At the same time he proved something that we all had doubted for a long time. He proved Tiger Woods is human. Woods had forged an aura of invincibility with his perfect fourteen for fourteen streak when leading a major after 54 holes. Woods steely stare and terminator like demeanor has earned him a reputation of invincibility. Before Yang’s victory, Woods had out dueled any and all comers when he led in a major. Yang played David to Tiger’s Goliath. Yang was the ’68 Jets over the Colts. It was an upset of monumental proportions and Yang did more for golf’s inclusion in the Olympics in one afternoon than the combined efforts of the PGA, The R & A and the PGA Tour combined.
Yang’s victory will probably ignite another golf boom in Asia and certainly help in the growth of golf world wide. But, he may have inadvertently helped Tiger Woods to grow a little bit also. There is an adage in sports that says,” You learn more from your defeats than you do from your victories.” I hope that is the case with Tiger Woods. Tiger wins so frequently that a loss can be difficult for him to deal with. A loss in a major is more painful. A loss in the last major of a season with no major wins is devastating. In the interview room afterward Tiger appeared less than thrilled to recount his loss.
Woods appeared to be in a state of disbelief and he began his post round interview with, “I hit the ball so much better than my score indicated. I hit it great all day and made absolutely nothing. I just had a terrible day on the greens and I had it at the wrong time. Either I miss read the putts or I didn’t make anything except the 14th hole. I think that was the only putt I made all day.” He continued, “I had plenty of looks and was clearly in control of the tournament for most of the day. But I just didn’t make anything today. I hit the ball great off the tee, hit my irons well, I did everything I needed to do except get the ball in the hole.” Not until he was asked if Yang won it or he lost it did he mention the champion that just beat him by three strokes. His answer was that it was a little of both and again stated again that he was in control most of the day. I understand that a player of Woods caliber has an ego; you are not the best golfer in the world without a strong sense of self. He needs to be a little more gracious in defeat. He referenced Jack Nicklaus and his nineteen second place finishes in the majors. Gary Player called Nicklaus the greatest loser of all time. Not because of the amount losses, but because of the way that Nicklaus was as gracious in defeat as he was in victory. Tiger could take a page from Jack’s book and give some credit where credit is due.
When asked, he did say that Yang “played great all day” and “missed only one shot all day.” At least Woods was willing to give Yang some recognition, but it appeared to be an afterthought. The fact is that Woods is right; he did not make anything all day. It was Yang that made the dramatic shots that Woods has seen himself make for a dozen years. Whether Woods intentionally downplayed the day Yang had or he was just too caught up in his own misfortune, he came across as less then gracious towards Yang. It is not easy for Woods to end his major season without a piece of championship hardware. He measures his success on major victories and to go 0-4 is an extreme disappointment, even in this comeback season. The pain of this will pass. Tiger will win many more majors and he’ll no doubt lose some also. Let’s hope that he can learn from this loss. He has been chasing Nicklaus and his records for years. Maybe he can copy Jack’s courteousness and sportsmanship in defeat as well as his graciousness in victory.