Yang closes in on Tour card


POSTED: Sunday, March 08, 2009

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. » Y.E. Yang heard the question in English, then listened to his translator say it to him again.

Which would be more important, he was asked: A two-year PGA Tour exemption, or the $1,008,000 that goes to the winner of the Honda Classic?

Yang tilted his eyes toward the ceiling, thought for a moment, then gave his reply.

“;Both would be nice,”; he said.

He's 18 holes away from each.

Yang shot even-par 70 and finished 7 under yesterday, good enough for a one-shot lead over Jeff Klauk (67) and Jeff Overton (70, with a triple bogey on No. 11, going twice in the water, followed by two birdies in his last three holes) entering the Honda's final round.

“;I kept fighting,”; Overton said. “;And now I've got a chance to win.”;

Best known for beating Tiger Woods at the 2006 HSBC Champions in Shanghai, Yang bogeyed the third hole, birdied the 15th and made nothing but pars the rest of the way, a slow-and-steady approach that worked. A victory today would accomplish his primary goal for this season, getting out of a return trip to Q-School.

“;I felt good,”; Yang said. “;I just didn't make the putts I needed to.”;

On a topsy-turvy day at the Honda, six different players had at least a share of the lead at some point, but the guy who started the third round in front found a way to finish there, too.

Charlie Wi (65), Brett Quigley (67) and John Rollins (68) all finished two shots off Yang's pace, at 5 under.

“;If you would have said, take 65 on the first tee, I would have said, 'See ya later,' “; Wi said. “;So, you know, I gave myself a chance.”;

Ben Crane briefly got into the lead with an ace on the 162-yard fifth hole, then chipped in on the next hole for birdie to get to 7 under. He then made two double bogeys in the next five holes, finishing three shots back.

And there's Mark Calcavecchia, who will start today tied for seventh and in position to pull off something statistically bizarre.

He won the Honda in 1987, prevailed again 11 years later—and now, 11 years after that, is in contention again, at 4 under for the week.

“;It is nice to know that I can still compete out here with these young guys. It is,”; said Calcavecchia, who shot a 65 and moved three spots up the leaderboard after leaving the course. “;I'm still confident in my abilities and if I play a great round tomorrow I can win the tournament. And that would be a huge thrill for me.”;

The guys ahead of him aren't exactly among golf's top closers.

Rollins has won twice in 238 career PGA Tour starts, and he's the only one of the first six on the leaderboard ever to win an event in golf's big leagues. Klauk is 0-for-7. Yang, 0-for-46. Wi, 0-for-84. Overton, 0-for-85. Quigley is a winner of more than $9 million but no tour events, going 0-for-339.

Someone will have a shot at a breakthrough today.

“;This is what we all play for,”; Klauk said. “;This is what you want to do. You want to win out here on tour.”;

Yang, Crane, Overton, Klauk, Will MacKenzie (72) and James Nitties (70) all had at least a piece of the lead at some point yesterday. MacKenzie finished in a six-way tie for seventh, three shots back. Nitties is part of a group four shots off Yang's pace.

Crane used a 9-iron for his hole-in-one, the first at the Honda in seven years. It hopped a couple of times, just below the hole, then rolled into the cup. And on the next hole, his pitch from off the right side of the green came out a bit hotter than he liked, hit the pin and dropped.

Klauk had a bit of luck as well. He hasn't needed his putter at the par-4 14th since Thursday, chipping in there in both the second and third rounds.

“;Easy chip, just right in,”; Klauk said. “;The one you want to have.”;

Erik Compton, in his second tour event since undergoing heart-transplant surgery for the second time, shot 73 and will start today eight shots out of the lead.

“;I think you can get it going out there,”; Compton said. “;I'm hitting it well enough.”;

Yang simply plodded along, hitting most fairways and greens in winds that blew as strong as 24 mph.

An example of Yang's anonymity at the Honda: As he walked through the resort lobby at PGA National around noon yesterday, no one seemed to notice. The previous evening in that very same area, some caddies were being asked for autographs.

If he hangs on today, that'll probably start to change.

“;I probably have to shoot 1 or 2 under to have a chance at winning,”; Yang said. “;I just have to stay very patient.”;


Hull leads Stanford by two

SINGAPORE » Australia's Katherine Hull had seven birdies en route to a 6-under 66 to take a two-stroke lead over Angela Stanford after the third round of the HSBC Women's Champions.

Hull, who won the Australian Ladies Masters last month, had an 11-under 205 total on the Tanah Merah Country Club, where play was suspended for 2 hours, 19 minutes because of lighting and heavy rain.


O'Meara, Langer in front

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. » Mark O'Meara shot a 5-under 66 to grab a share of the lead with Bernhard Langer at the Toshiba Classic.

Eduardo Romero (68) of Argentina is one stroke behind at 8-under 134 and Denis Watson (68) from Zimbabwe is at 7 under.