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Koreans Yang, Choi take different paths to 67s

Friday, April 08, 2011

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Standing about 240 yards away from the hole at No. 13, Y.E. Yang was thinking eagle. That's when he went with a hybrid.

Y.E. Yang eagled No. 13 on Thursday as he and fellow South Korean K.J. Choi posted first-round 67s. They are tied for second place entering today. (Michael Holahan/Staff)

"Fortunately for me, it was about less than a foot left," Yang said through an interpreter about his big shot. "I basically just tapped it in for eagle."

Yang also used consecutive birdies on Nos. 15 and 16 to move into a first-place tie with Rory McIlroy at 7-under before he bogeyed the last two holes to fall two shots back of McIlroy and Alvaro Quiros with 5-under 67.

Fellow South Korean K.J. Choi matched Yang's score, though he achieved his 67 by making a late charge.

At even-par through 12 holes, Choi birdied five of his last six, including a putt of about 40 feet at No. 18, to give him a 32 on the second nine.

Choi's Thursday score matches his 67 in 2010's first round. Choi finished tied for fourth.

"I think (the bogey on 11) was like medicine for me. If I had saved par, I probably would have been too excited and maybe lose my rhythm."

Choi (Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff)

While Choi made his move at the end, Yang lost his top position on the final two holes. At No. 17, a bad tee shot put him in trouble, and his approach landed in the bunker. Considering his troubles, Yang thought he could have done worse than 1-over on the hole.

"It was a struggle from the get-go," Yang said. "I hit it a bit left. I guess I was a little bit nervous. Then my second shot went into the bunker and came out short of the green. It was an uphill battle for me on 17. I think I did a good save for bogey, actually."

On No. 18, Yang's second shot bounced on the green and into the seating area. His pitch rolled left and past the hole. He then missed his par putt.

But thanks to the four birdies on the front nine along with success in the first seven holes of the back nine, Yang, who finished tied for eighth in the 2010 Masters Tournament, is in good position to make a run at a second major title. Yang won the 2009 PGA Championship, beating Tiger Woods in the final round.

"Winning a major isn't a privilege, it's an honor," Yang said. "With that comes confidence."

Reach Wayne Staats at (706) 823-3425 or wayne.staats@augustachronicle.com.

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