Asian-born players had come close in the majors before. Liang-Huan Lu of Taiwan finished one shot behind Lee Trevino at the 1971 British Open, and T.C. Chen's famous two-chip gaffe cost him a chance at the 1985 U.S. Open, where he was runner-up to Andy North.
He had envisioned playing Woods so many times, imagined the strategies he'd used, that he felt no fear. He caught Woods at the turn and was tied with five holes to play when he chipped in for that eagle on the 14th. With the tees again moved forward to 301 yards, Yang came up just short. He watched Woods play a good bunker shot to 8 feet, then knocked in his chip.
He three-putted for a bogey on the 17th, and it looked as if the nerves might finally be kicking in — just in time for Woods to stage yet another dramatic comeback.
Instead, Yang delivered his two most important shots for the upset.
"He went out there and executed his game plan," Woods said. "He was doing exactly what you have to do, especially in these conditions. I think he played beautifully."
After a long and tearful embrace with his wife, Young Ju Park, he walked across a bridge saluting thousands of fans who couldn't believe what they saw. When the Wanamaker Trophy was placed next to him before his news conference, he nodded his head, as if to say, "Yep, this is pretty cool."
Yang finished at 8-under 280 and won $1.35 million, along with a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour and the majors. He is the first player since John Daly in 1991 to win the PGA Championship after going to Q-school the previous year. He also made the International team for the Presidents Cup in October in San Francisco.
"This might be my last win as a golfer," Yang said. "But it sure is a great day."
Indeed, in a year of spoilers at the majors, this might have been the biggest.
Kenny Perry was poised to become the oldest Masters champion at 48 until Angel Cabrera beat him in a playoff. Phil Mickelson, reeling from news his wife had breast cancer, was on the verge of finally winning the U.S. Open until Lucas Glover outplayed him over the final few holes. And just last month, 59-year-old Tom Watson was an 8-foot par putt away from winning the British Open, only to lose in a playoff to Stewart Cink.
But whether the PGA Championship is remembered more for Yang's victory than Woods losing a 54-hole lead for the first time in a major remains to be seen.
"I have the utmost respect for his game," Yang said. "I don't think he had a poor game today, but I'm just glad that he had one of those off days today."
Off it was.
Woods struggled with his putter from the very first hole, and it likely cost him the tournament. He missed seven birdie putts from within 10 feet, including ones at No. 10 and No. 13 that could have started one of those patented Tiger waves that has swallowed up so many an opponent.
"All the other 14 major championships I've won, I've putted well for the entire week," Woods said. "And today, that didn't happen."