June 18 2011
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
BETHESDA, Md. -- Y.E. Yang wasn't trying to chase Rory McIlroy on Friday during the second round of the U.S. Open. He just wanted to play his own game.
The strategy worked out pretty well for the steady Korean, too. About 45 minutes after McIlroy shot 66 to move to 11 under, Yang teed off, trailing the Northern Irishman by eight strokes.
When he finished off his 68 Friday evening, though, Yang had closed the gap to six strokes. Yes, it tied for the largest 36-hole deficit in U.S. Open history -- but Yang had another stat to dwell on that he liked much better.
The two-time PGA TOUR winner trailed Tiger Woods by six strokes in 2009 at the midway point of the PGA Championship. And guess what? Yang made up that deficit and became the only player to ever come from behind and beat Woods at a major.
"Thanks for reminding me," Yang said to a reporter after his round. "I think that would be a good experience to bring up ... (I will) probably remind myself tomorrow morning again about that. It's definitely a pleasant memory, so I think it'll only do me more help than harm if I remember that going into tomorrow's game."
Yang said he watched some of the TV broadcast on Friday morning and saw how well McIlroy was playing. In some ways, though, what Yang called a "daunting task" became easier because the deficit was so large when he teed off.
"If it was a stroke or two strokes or three strokes ahead, then maybe it would have added a lot more pressure for me to try and get close to him or at least not lengthen or widen the gap," Yang said. "But it being such a big gap in the first place, I just didn't really mind what Rory ended up with. I didn't even know his score when I teed off. So I just played my game.
"It actually enabled me to concentrate on my own game, so secretly I'm very happy that I had another under par round."
Yang actually made up a 10-stroke deficit against Seung-Yul Noh in the final round of last year's Korean Open. So he knows anything can happen, and the U.S. Open is only going to get tougher as the weekend progresses.
"I know it's sort of a different kind of level of golf tournament, but still, there are many amazing things that happen in golf," Yang said.