South Korea adds to its clout

Brian Murphy
Yahoo! Sports

Y.E. Yang's winning putt tumbled home on the 18th hole at PGA National at about 6 p.m. Eastern. He was the winner of the Honda Classic, ensured himself a berth in the Masters, won a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour, and back home in South Korea, where it was around 7 a.m. on Monday morning, the probable reaction from his commuting countrymen was:

A Korean won a golf event somewhere in the world? Big freaking deal. Now where's my coffee? It's Monday morning.

After all, in his country, a golf win for Yang was no big thang, if you will.

The 460th player on the men's rankings was the second Korean to win a big-time event that day.

Earlier, women's golf star Ji Yai Shin fired a tidy 66 to secure the HSBC Women's Champions in Singapore – her fourth LPGA title in eight months, including last year's Women's British Open. She's 20 years old. Apparently, Ji Yai Shin translates from Korean to English to mean "Not Michelle Wie."

Quick side note: Shin's nickname is "Final Round Queen." This is again different from Wie, whose parents are Korean, and whose last name, "Wie," may translate to "Final Round Peasant."

(I kid because I love. You guys know I'm a dues-paid member of the Wie Fan Club. So save the emails.)

At any rate, all hail Korean golf. The country of South Korea only ranks 24th in world population and is smaller than countries such as Vietnam, Ethiopia and Thailand. But if golf held political clout, South Korea would be a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council.

The women's dominance is well known, and Shin's win only adds to the lore. Last year, Korean women won nine of the 34 LPGA events, a nifty win percentage. What is less dominant is the men's track record on the PGA Tour, making Yang's win all the more noteworthy.

His work at the Honda Classic – steady under pressure, when John Rollins closed the lead to two strokes and Yang had to tap dance through the minefield that is the "Bear Trap" – made him only the second South Korean to win on tour, joining K.J. Choi.

There are other ways to win than on the PGA Tour, however, and Yang now has eight wins worldwide, including a celebrated win in China in 2006, when he held off the great Tiger Woods by two shots. Yang called this win bigger, and celebrated by high-fiving fans in exuberance.

It was fun to see and, at least for a moment, a chance for another South Korean man to join the party. We will now return you to your regularly scheduled South Korean women's win, coming soon to an LPGA event near you.

For today, at least, you can return Yang's high-five with gusto.

Scorecard of the week

69-69-73-72 – Erik Compton, tie-44th, Honda Classic.

When we read the words "heart transplant recipient," most of us pause for a brief moment to marvel at the words, then move on with our lives, or turn the sports page, or run an errand. Too rarely do we give the story its full due, either because we don't fully understand the entirety of the miracle, or because we can't be bothered. It didn't happen to us, so we don't dwell too long. After all, we're busy, right?

I can't pretend to know what it is like to have my heart deemed ineffective, or to have had my chest pried open, my failing heart removed, then replaced with the functioning heart of a recently deceased person. I can say that it has happened to a close family relative, and even then, with a ringside seat in the hospital, try as I might, I'm sure I didn't fully grasp the fright and wonderment of it all. It is a mind-blowing thing.

Erik Compton is a two-time heart transplant recipient. This makes him less a golfer than a marvel.

He is out to make a living as a player, yes, but he also is out so that people like us will pay attention to the cause, and not take for granted the sensation of modern science.

Compton had as his standard-bearer on Friday a 14-year-old boy with a heart defect, and the two walked 18 holes together. Compton shot 69. The boy called it the best day of his life. Compton said he wouldn't ride in a cart, because he wants to show the world what transplant recipients can do. It's a hell of a story. Compton has to be the easiest player to root for on Tour, and not for sentimental reasons – for inspiring reasons.

Broadcast moment of the week

"I had a 7-iron on 16 and I choked. I hit it in the water and made double bogey." – Jack Nicklaus, sitting in the NBC tower with Dan Hicks and Johnny Miller, discussing a recent round at Augusta National.

The Golden Bear was four under on the 16th tee, according to Hicks, but that double-bogey cluttered up the scorecard, apparently. But that's not exactly the point.

Point is, it's refreshing to hear the G.O.A.T. (yes, Tiger, until you get to 19, it's still Jack's World) talk like one of us. Who among us has not ruined a dream round with El Gag-o late in the afternoon?

So, it's a relief to know that even Jack can dust off the "c" word and ache like the rest of us. Of course, we won't emphasize that Jack's choke took place when he was four under at Augusta National. My most recent choke came when I was trying to break 100 at the local muny and I took a snowman on 18. It's all on the same family tree, right?

Mulligan of the week

• Speaking of chokes, Miller was in the booth on Sunday. It's his 20th year on NBC, and there's no denying the entertainment factor at hand. NBC should launch a tribute ad campaign: "Johnny Miller … Calling Out Chokes for Two Decades."

So, Mark Calcavecchia was flirting with a top-10 finish on Sunday when he skied his tee shot on 17 high, right and wet. Kerplunk.

As NBC showed it disappearing into tall reeds of the water hazards at PGA National's Resort and Spa Champion Course, Miller broke out the knives and uttered: "Shades of Kiawah."

Whoa, Nellie!

I mean, we get it, Johnny: Calc got wet in a marshy setting. Just one problem – there were zero shades of Kiawah, starting with the fact that we're not at a Ryder Cup, we're not in Sunday singles to decide the Cup, we're not in the final moments of an historic and climactic showdown and … oh, yeah, we're nearly 18 years removed from Kiawah.

We were at the Honda Classic, a forgettable PGA Tour stop, with Calc looking for a tie for 10th. Instead, he finished tied for 22nd after making double bogey on the par 3.

Johnny Miller, we enjoy your work, but on this one, my fellow Bay Area native … somebody get that man a mulligan!

Where do we go from here?

• To Doral, for a World Golf Championship event. Naturally, you'll place your bet on the lead horse at a WGC event … Australia's Geoff Ogilvy, right?

Rimshot, please.

While Ogilvy's record is worthy of a tip of your Cobra-logoed cap, and while he is the only player besides Tiger Woods to win three WGC events, he's still an even dozen behind Tiger's 15 WGC wins. Tiger likes to flex in front of the world. It's good to be the king.

That said, I'm not expecting El Tigre to come out and win at Doral. He could, sure, but I still have that feeling that he's a month away from revving at a high level, and with a star-studded field at Doral, I'm calling a top 20 for Tiger before he breaks out with a 'W' at Bay Hill later this month.

There, Tiger. You've been properly motivated by a doubter. See you in the winner's circle.

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