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30 Nov - 3 Dec, 2023

29 Nov 2023 | Australian Open |

Aussie duo out to break Open title drought in Sydney

by Martin Blake

Hannah Green, Minjee Lee Open image
Hannah Green and Minjee Lee this week in Sydney. Photo: Brett Costello

Minjee Lee and Hannah Green are on familiar territory, to be sure. Back at home, tired after a long year travelling on the LPGA Tour, and hellbent on winning their first national Open.

It’s an anomaly that neither world No. 5 Lee nor No. 28 Green has won the ISPS HANDA Australian Open despite all their success overseas.

It’s not for want of trying, and the drought of Australian winners of the women’s event has now stretched to almost a decade since Karrie Webb reeled everyone in at Victoria in 2014 to win for the fifth time.

As a 17-year-old amateur, Minjee Lee was the joint 54-hole leader that year, but she closed with a 78 to finish tied-11th, and the title has eluded her ever since.

Similarly, Green has found it a bridge too far, twice in the top three including last year at Victoria.

“I think it’s a different kind of pressure playing at home,” said the Mt Lawley product. “I feel like probably we put more pressure on ourselves more than there is outside pressure.

"I think that all the Australians and the crowd who come out just want to come out and just want to see us play really good golf and we probably are the ones that are – our toughest challenge is probably ourselves trying to chase that trophy but not get too ahead of ourselves.

“I think I’ll still be nervous on the first tee. Once I hit my first tee shot I’ll be fine, but if I have a tough putt to make that means I’ll probably win the championship. I could be just as nervous as winning any other tournament. So, it’s hard. It’s the one that we both want on our resume, so obviously we’ll get to try for it this week.”

Lee recently clocked up her ninth and 10th wins on the LPGA Tour which puts her in all-time great category, and that includes two major championships. But she’d love to win this week to put some icing on that cake.

“I actually feel quite relaxed this week,” she said. “I thought I would feel a bit more pressure like I usually feel coming to an Aussie Open, but I’m not sure what it is. It might be that I don't know the golf courses that well, I’ve never been here, but it just kind of feels like I’m just coming into this new week and getting to know the golf courses and playing two really great tracks that I haven’t been to before.

“So yeah, I’m not sure. Like Hannah said, Aussie Open’s always a tough trophy to win and of course we’re going to put added pressure because we both want to play really well, especially in front of a home crowd and in Australia. So, we’ll see how we go.”

The mixed format of the Open – which has separate trophies but where the players are interspersed – appeals to both of them because they have family interests in the men’s field.

Green is due to marry Perth professional Jarryd Felton early next year while Lee’s brother Min Woo is arguably the favourite for the men’s event have taken out the Fortinet Australian PGA Championship in Brisbane last week.

“I like it because my fiancé is in the field, but I think it’s good,” said Green. “It grows golf. It gets people out here. It helps both the women and the men. I think a lot of people think it benefits the women more, but I think we’re just as talented. We give the same value to golf, so why not have us all on the same stage.

“I know logistically it can be quite difficult to find the venue that can host so many players, but I think we’re still fine-tuning what’s the best recipe for both championships to be the best that they can be and it’s nice to still have the Australian Open on the schedule for the women, as there was a year where it wasn’t. All the young kids coming through want to come out and play this event and win the trophy as well.”

As for Lee, she is hoping to catch up with her brother soon. “It’s always exciting and I’m super-proud of him and how he’s been playing so far,” she said. “Over the past year he’s been playing great. It’s always great to watch when your family’s doing so well.”

Minjee Lee tees off at 7.16am Thursday in round one, playing at The Lakes with fellow-Australians Gabriela Ruffels and Stephanie Kyriacou.

Hannah Green’s tournament begins at 12.11pm at The Australian on Thursday, with defending champion Ashleigh Buhai and Sydney’s Grace Kim.

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