Y.E. Yang, Charlie Wi lose PGA Tour card

September 22, 2014
Y.E. Yang got off to a fast start at the Phoenix Open.

Y.E. Yang steadily declined in the PGA Tour money rankings, and finally ended up losing his PGA Tour card. (Korea Times file)

Charlie Wi

Charlie Wi

By The Korea Times Los Angeles staff

It was a tough weekend for Y.E. Yang, Charlie Wi and several other South Korean golfers at the Web.com Tour Championship in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

Y.E. Yang, better known as Yang Yong-eun to Koreans, first caught the public eye in 2007 when he won the HSBC Champions Tournament on the Asian Tour, beating Tiger Woods down the stretch by two strokes.

In 2009, Yang proved his victory two years before wasn’t a fluke when he achieved two feats that shot him to stardom within the golf world and the Korean community. Not only did he become the first Asian golfer to win a major, but he also was the first golfer to ever beat Tiger Woods in a major championship when Woods held a 54-hole lead.

Then there’s the Y.E. Yang of today. With his five-year tour exemption ending from his glory days in 2009, he needed a strong finish at the Web.com championship to regain his PGA Tour card. He steadily declined in the PGA Tour money rankings as he kept on missing cuts event after event.

After opening with an average round of even-par 70 at TPC Sawgrass this past weekend, Yang struggled once again in the second round with a 76 and missed the cut.

Whether or not the 42-year old South Korean will regain the skills necessary to beat the best in the game is a big question mark, especially with young talent such as Rory McIlroy, 25, and Rickie Fowler, 25, who are setting new standards for the game.

Another notable South Korean golfer, Charlie Wi, whose name would occasionally creep up the PGA Tour leaderboard, did make the cut. Regardless, he didn’t play well enough through the weekend to make a meaningful impact on his priority rank and thus did not earn his PGA Tour card.

Wi has never won a PGA tournament, but would often be included in conversations involving South Korean golfers. He will most likely return to the Web.com Tour as well as the Asian Tour where he has accumulated seven wins already.

Kang Sung-hoon, 27, Lee Dong-hwan, 27, Richard H. Lee, 27, and Michael Kim, 21, also came up short.

On the other side of the spectrum, the PGA Tour will welcome two South Korean rookies.

28-year old South Korean golfer, Park Sung Joon battled difficult conditions and a stressful Sunday back-nine. After shooting a four-round total of 5-under, Park inched his way into the tour’s top 50 priority ranking allowing him to attain his PGA Tour card for the first time in his career.

The result did not come easy though. On the par-four 18th hole of his final round, Park needed a a birdie to make sure he would get his card regardless of how his competitors performed.

Instead he pushed his tee shot into a water hazard putting his year’s efforts in jeopardy.

After hitting his third shot to 15 feet, he labored over his putt only to miss and finish with a bogey five. He left the green visibly flustered thinking he had lost his chance to play on the PGA Tour, but fortunately for him that ended up not being the case.

Kim Min-whee, 22, who goes by Whee Kim in the U.S., almost spiraled out of control on the third day when inclement weather hit. After shooting an impressive six-under after the first two rounds, he struggled to commit six bogeys in a row and disappointingly double-bogeyed his last hole.

After that blowup on Saturday, Kim managed to regain composure on Sunday to shoot a 2-under 68 to safely make it into the PGA Tour’s 2014 recruiting class.