Yong-eun (Y.E.) Yang (1 USPGA )
Yang Yong-eun (Korean: 양용은, pronounced [jaŋ joŋ ɯn]; born 15 January 1972), or Y. E. Yang, is a South Korean professional golfer currently playing on the PGA Tour, where he has won twice, including most notably the 2009 PGA Championship where he came from behind to defeat Tiger Woods. He is the only Asian-born man to have won a major championship.
In 2006 he won the Korea Open, an Asian Tour event, gaining him entry into the HSBC Champions Tournament in November 2006. He won the tournament, beating a strong field including runner-up Tiger Woods. The victory earned him membership of the European Tour and moved him into the top 40 of the Official World Golf Ranking. In 2008 he played on the PGA Tour after earning his card through qualifying school; he had to regain his tour card in 2009 after placing 157th on the money list in 2008. Yang won his first title on the PGA Tour at the 2009 Honda Classic in his 46th career start in the United States. With this win, he became only the second Korean after K. J. Choi to win on the PGA Tour.
On 16 August 2009, Yang won the 91st PGA Championship, his first major championship, overcoming a two-shot deficit going into the final round to finish three strokes ahead of Woods, his playing partner. The victory was the first major championship for a male player born in Asia, surpassing the runners-up finishes achieved by Lu Liang-Huan in the 1971 Open Championship, Isao Aoki in the 1980 U.S. Open and Chen Tze-chung in the 1985 U.S. Open. The previous best finish by a Korean was Choi's 3rd place in the 2004 Masters Tournament. It was also the first time that Woods had failed to win a major after holding at least a share of the lead at the end of 54 holes.Yang was ranked 110th worldwide prior to the tournament, but moved up to 34th after the victory. The win earned Yang a five-year PGA Tour exemption and helped him to a top ten finish overall on the PGA Tour.
In February 2011, Yang had his best run at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship reaching the quarter-finals before eventually succumbing to American Matt Kuchar, 2 & 1. Previously Yang had defeated Álvaro Quirós on the 20th hole in round one, Stewart Cink, 4 & 3, in round two and the 2010 U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell in round three, 3 & 2.
The following week Yang was in contention for his 3rd PGA Tour title at The Honda Classic, an event where he had earned his inaugural PGA Tour win in 2009. Despite entering the final round five strokes behind the eventual winner Rory Sabbatini, he was able to close the gap to just one stroke by birdieing the par-three 15th, where he was 18 inches away from a hole in one. However, needing an eagle on the par-five 18th after Sabbatini had stretched his lead to two with a birdie on the par-four 16th, he was unable to hole his bunker shot and a birdie earned him a runner-up finish one stroke behind the winner.
Yang reached a career high OWGR ranking of 19th in 2010, but a string of bad finishes and missed cuts in 2013 and 2014 plummeted the former major winner to 638th at the end of 2014, the final year of his PGA Tour exemption after winning the 2009 PGA Championship. A poor 2014 saw Yang finish well outside the top 150 in the FedEx Cup, which limits him to the Past Champions category for 2015. Yang spent much of 2015 playing on the European Tour and Asian Tour. 2015 saw a resurgence for Yang, making the cut at the PGA Championship for the first time in multiple years. Yang moved up to 262nd in the world by November 2015.
Yang was born in the island province of Jeju-do. He is the fourth of eight children. He started to play golf at the age of 19 while picking golf balls part-time and, later, working as a golf instructor at Jeju's Ora Country Club. Yang learned by watching the movements of players who visited his golf club. Although he now has teaching coaches, Yang is a self-taught golfer. His brother recommended he try hitting balls at a local driving range. Trying to get a 'proper job', Yang fell down a flight of stairs and tore his ACL while he was learning to use an excavator for a construction company. After recovering from his knee injury, he began mandatory service in the South Korean military at the age of 21.
On conclusion of his service, he moved to New Zealand, where he pursued a professional career in golf. He turned semi-pro on 21 July 1995 and pro on 22 August 1996. Yang is married to Young-Joo Park and has three sons. He is an active owner of an indoor golf range in the Koreatown section of Dallas. He currently resides in Southlake, Texas, near fellow South Korean PGA player K. J. Choi.