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AUGUSTA, GA. - If today's pros whistle a little louder as they pass the lair of Tiger Woods, they owe their newfound courage to Y.E. Yang.

Now, at the Masters, Yang hopes to spread a little fear himself.

The 2009 PGA champion has capitalized on the way he upset Woods, 20 months ago, head-to-head on the Chaska prairie at Hazeltine.

On Thursday he chased Rory McIlroy and finally caught him with two holes to go.

Then Yang bogeyed 17 and 18 and is tied with fellow Korean K.J. Choi in third place.

McIlroy, the 21-year-old with the sometimes-shaggy hair and the unlimited ceiling, had no bogeys on his card for a 65. He has finished third in three of the previous five majors, including that '09 PGA.

He held the lead until the final group arrived, and until Alvaro Quiros of Spain birdied 17 and 18 to tie him with his own 65.

On Thursday Yang eagled the par-5 13th from 2 feet and birdied 15 and 16 to reach the lead.

"Then he probably hit the worst drive he's hit since I've been working for him," said Mike Bestor, who has caddied for Yang since last May.

"He made a great recovery shot on 17 and missed the putt, and then we were between yardages on 18. We went with the 5-hybrid, but the ball flew on us, and it was a tough two-putt. I'll take responsibility for that.

"But he was solid all day. He shot 67 and he really only had one long putt."

Yang won twice last year on the Asian Tour.

This year he won three matches in the WGC World Match Play, over Quiros, Stewart Cink and Graeme McDowell, then finished second at the Honda Classic. He is a solid No. 33 in the world.

And he's carrying three hybrid woods and no iron longer than a 6-iron.

"The hybrids are easy to hit," Yang said. "I'm not one of the premier hitters on the PGA Tour. It creates a lot of loft if you need a high shot. It gives you more variables when you try to be more creative."

"And winning a major always gives you confidence because you know that so few people have won one."

But nobody, at least not in a major, had played in the same group with Woods while he held the 54-hole lead and survived.

Bestor was sitting with friends in Denver, watching that PGA and telling everyone not to soft-sell the unknown fellow with the rooster logo on his shirt.

"What I've noticed is that when he gets his nose in contention, he's as calm as anyone I've ever seen," Bestor said. "I don't have to calm him down. He does it automatically."

The signature shot at Hazeltine was a 210-yard 3-iron at No. 18 on Sunday. Yang lofted it over the trees and made it stop to within 10 feet, then rolled in the putt and jumped excitedly in victory.

Woods still had his putt left, and went about it with forlorn irrelevance.

How important was that moment?

Well, it was Woods' final major before the Thanksgiving night incident at Isleworth that spawned, so to speak, all those other troubles.

He has not contended seriously for a major tournament since.

In the interim, the rest of the world's players have pepped up their step, and Woods is no longer the book favorite.

On Thursday he shot an indifferent 1-under-par 71 although he said he hit "a lot of wonderful putts that just didn't go in," in case you haven't heard that one before.

At the 2010 Masters, Hunter Mahan said the PGA made a difference: "We saw the Yangster do it and we realized we all could."

"I still think Tiger can intimidate," Bestor said. "You know when he's on the range. But Y.E. said that when he used to watch Tiger, he visualized being in his group and playing alongside him. So he'd rehearsed it mentally before he ever got into that situation. He also beat him in a tournament in Shanghai the year before.

"Some of the younger guys have never been in tournaments with Tiger. They never saw him win by 10. They don't have the scar tissue the older guys do. But Y.E. is good at making common sense -- 'I'm not playing Tiger, I'm playing the golf course.'"

He outplayed Woods on another course Thursday.