Koreans Choi, Yang show no signs of feeling pressure

Saturday, April 10, 2010
By Garry Smits
Morris News Service

Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood are doing England proud at the top of the Masters Tournament leaderboard, but don't discount the South Koreans lurking close behind.

K.J. Choi shot a workmanlike 1- under-par 71 with no bogeys in the second round Friday. He finished tied for third with four other players at 6-under-par 138, two shots behind Poulter and Westwood. Y.E. Yang opened with 10 consecutive pars and bounced back from two bogeys with a spectacular birdie at the par-4 17th to hold his round together, finishing with 72. He is 5-under, alone in eighth place.

The two men will be squarely in the mix in today's third round, and each will play with America's best hopes -- and each winners of multiple green jackets. Choi will play with Tiger Woods for a third day in the next-to-last twosome behind Poulter and Westwood. Yang will be two pairings ahead with Phil Mickelson.

Not that it should bother either of the stoic Koreans, who have made second homes in Texas. After all, Choi has shrugged off the distractions of playing with Woods in his first two competitive rounds of the 2010 season, and he turned in his best 36-hole score at Augusta in eight starts, by three shots. Yang played two weekend rounds with Mickelson in last week's Shell Houston Open and beat him by one shot.

"My game is improved and my confidence is very good," said Choi, a seven-time PGA Tour winner. "It's more confidence in my swing to keep going in the tournament."

Yang has won only twice on the PGA Tour, but he has proved he can contend under major championship pressure. At last year's PGA Championship at Hazeltine National, Yang became the first player to catch and pass Woods on a Sunday in a major, spanking him by three shots.

"I've still got two rounds of golf left, I'm still in the top 10, I'm only three shots behind the leader, so I can't be too worried about that," Yang said.

Yang hit perhaps the best shot at the par-4 17th in the second round, stuffing a short iron to within inches of the hole.

For the second day in a row, Choi birdied Nos. 13 and 16.