HAVEN, Wis. -- Defending champion Y.E. Yang approached his first-round pairing with Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh with typical humility.
"I'll be playing with two legendary golfers, one who has won here on Whistling Straits,'' he said. "It's personally an honor to be playing with them. I think the next two days I'm going to remember for the rest of my life.''
That set the tone for a solid even-par 72 Thursday that included a near hole out at the short par-4 seventh when his wedge approach shot rattled the flagstick and stopped a foot away. Easily the best shot of a day that started with Woods managing birdie on three of his first four holes and ended with him finally holing his fourth birdie putt on the ninth, his last of the round, for a one-under 71. Yang made a shorter birdie putt--his third of the round--on the same line as Woods'.
"I really enjoyed today and had a lot of fun,'' Yang said. "I had a lot of support from fans and it was fun to play in an all-champions group and have such great support from the galleries.''
Dogged again by scratchy putting, Singh shot a one-over-par 73 to bring up the rear in the pairing of PGA champs.
Admittedly Yang is lacking in confidence and, with only two top-10 finishes this season, he isn't riding the same kind of momentum that he took to Hazeltine last year. It showed on his first nine (the back) as he scrambled for some nice par saves but went birdie-less in shooting 37.
"I struggled with my lines on the first nine,'' he said. "I was able to get off my right side better on the second nine and that made a big difference in my ball-striking.''
We all remember his display of ball-striking in the final round during the hazing at Hazeltine when he became the first man to take down Tiger in a major championship. Now that's the stuff of legends.
-- Pete McDaniel