Yang Yong-eun failed to build on his victory at the HSBC Champions tournament in 2006 but the South Korean promised to use Sunday's Honda Classic triumph in Florida as a springboard to more success.
South Korea's Yang Yong-eun is overjoyed after winning the Honda Classic tournament in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, on Sunday. Yang shot a final round 2-under 68 to win with a score of 9 under par. [Shanghai Daily]
The 37-year-old became only the second South Korean to win on the US PGA Tour following K.J. Choi and ended a two-year victory drought when he clinched the Honda Classic's US$1 million top prize.
The future had looked bright for Yang after beating a top class HSBC Champions field that included Tiger Woods in 2006, but he would have a long wait for his next big win.
"Ever since I won the HSBC Champions, there were a lot of expectations from people around me, and even on myself," Yang told reporters after his one-stroke victory over American John Rollins.
"I think I'm a lot more mature. I think my dreams are now bigger, now that I've won here. My expectations are higher, and I think I can do a better job."
Yang said his career had gone downhill since winning in 2006 and that Sunday's victory was a relief.
"For the past two years, it was kind of frustrating for me. I wasn't able to win for two years. My performances were just not that great. My world rankings had fallen down," added Yang, who came to PGA National this week ranked 460. But winning today, I feel very relieved. All of the pressure is off my shoulders."
Yang's HSBC triumph allowed him to fulfil a dream to play in the 2007 Masters, where he finished tied for 30th.
"Up to that point, my dream was to play in the Masters. When I got invited, I had actually realized my dream. After that, I think my passion for the game went down a little bit. I took things for granted. But after winning today, I realize that there's a bigger goal out there. I would like to see myself achieve bigger things. So that's how different I am."
Yang said he was inspired on Sunday by compatriot Shin Ji-yai's six-shot comeback win at the US$2 million HSBC Women's Champions in Singapore, and the South Korean baseball team's 14-0 victory over China at the World Baseball Classic.
"Before I came out to the course today, I was checking the Internet, and I did notice that (she) had ... come back from behind and shot six-under to win. I also saw that Korea, our baseball team, won.
"So I said to myself: 'Hey, if they can do it .... I'd better do this.'"
With the win, Yang qualified for next week's CA Championship at Doral, and earned an invitation to next month's Masters.
Rollins (67) was alone in second and he, like Yang, qualified for the CA Championship by moving into the top 10 in the FedEx Cup standings. Ben Crane (68) was third after finishing 6 under and Jeff Klauk (71, with 17 pars and one bogey) was alone in fourth, another shot back.
"All in all, I have no complaints," Rollins said.
"I did all I can do. Shot 3 under on championship on Sunday and came up short, but I gave myself a chance," he said.
(Agencies via Shanghai Daily March 10, 2009)