13 Jun 2024 | Professional golf |

Aussies on Tour: Min Woo joins Woods for US Open prep

by Tony Webeck

Min Woo Lee Tiger Woods US Open
Min Woo Lee spent Tuesday at the US Open preparing alongside three-time champion Tiger Woods. Photo: Alex Slitz/Getty Images

The 15-time major champion knows his son is closer in age yet Aussie Min Woo Lee was a welcome addition to Tiger Woods’ group for a practice round ahead of Thursday’s US Open at Pinehurst.

Originally scheduled to play with fellow Aussies Jason Day and Jason Scrivener in Tuesday’s practice round at Pinehurst’s famed No.2 course, Lee instead jumped ship to partner up with Woods and Max Homa, Woods’ son Charlie tagging along as ‘player support’.

In his pre-tournament interview after their round, Woods revealed that Min Woo and Charlie had previously been in regular contact, the chance to spend a few hours in each other’s company one that Woods was conscious to savour.

“He (Charlie) was very excited today to watch Max and Min Woo and watch them hit golf balls,” said Woods, a three-time US Open champion.

“They’ve talked to him quite a bit, especially Min Woo and him.

“I think they’re closer in age than I am to anybody else. It’s great for us to be able to share these moments together.”

The chance to watch Woods plot his way around green complexes that will likely prove crucial in determining this year’s US Open champion should prove invaluable for Lee.

The ‘turtleback’ greens are notorious for spitting approach shots to collection areas that frame each putting surface, Lee and coach Ritchie Smith placing a particular emphasis on his short game in the lead-up to Pinehurst.

It is an area of his game that he revels in – who can forget his chip-in for eagle in the final round of the 2023 Australian PGA Championship – and one which Lee knows he will need to lean on this week.

“When you miss a lot of greens like myself, you’ve got to learn how to chip,” Lee joked on “Aussies at the US Open”on Fox Sports.

“The chip-ins just come naturally. As a kid I put myself in terrible positions and would try to make an up-and-down or try to hole it. I just like chipping in; I’ve got a lot of confidence in chipping.

“Most of the preparation is that bump-and-run shot. There’s not too many courses where there’s too many turtlebacks and I have heard there’s a lot.

“I might not hit it as much as I think but just to have it in the bag is a 1 per center.”

Aiding Lee’s preparation is Smith’s familiarity with Pinehurst, having been in attendance as coach of Oliver Goss at the 2014 championship won by Germany’s Martin Kaymer.

The 25-year-old put new shafts in his irons three weeks ago and, with six top-30 finishes in his past eight major starts, is learning what it takes to compete in the majors.

“It’s stressful but it’s also fun,” said Lee, who tees off at 10:02pm Thursday night alongside Sahith Theegala and Nicolai Hojgaard.

“That’s why we practice. We want to be in these majors and play as good as we can.

“Trying to peak, schedule-wise, for the majors, I don’t know how to prepare to peak but that’s something I’m trying to work on.”

Lee is one of six Aussies in the field at Pinehurst, all of whom are hoping to join David Graham (1981) and Geoff Ogilvy (2006) as Australian champions of the US Open.

It is a busy week also for the women’s game with Aussies in action in all four events being played around the world.

Min Woo’s sister Minjee Lee heads the five-strong Australian contingent at the Meijer LPGA Classic in Michigan while Kelsey Bennett joins Kirsten Rudgeley, Amy Walsh and a returning Whitney Hillier at the Ladies Italian Open on the Ladies European Tour. Amateur Belinda Ji and Stephanie Bunque are playing the Amundi Czech Ladies Challenge on the LET Access Series and Cassie Porter will be aiming to make it back-to-back wins on the Epson Tour alongside Su Oh, Maddison Hinson-Tolchard and Amy Chu at the inaugural Otter Creek Championship.

Photo: Alex Slitz/Getty Images

Round 1 tee times AEST

US Open Pinehurst Resort (No.2 Cse), Raleigh, North Carolina Round 1 9:18pm* Cameron Smith 10:02pm Min Woo Lee 10:13pm* Ryan Fox (NZ) 10:35pm* Cam Davis 2:30am Jason Scrivener 3:03am Jason Day 3:58am* Adam Scott

Round 2 8:45pm* Jason Scrivener 9:18pm* Jason Day 10:13pm Adam Scott 3:03am Cameron Smith 3:47am* Min Woo Lee 3:58am Ryan Fox (NZ) 4:20am Cam Davis

Defending champion: Wyndham Clark Past Aussie winners: David Graham (1981), Geoff Ogilvy (2006) Prize money: $US20 million TV times: Live 8:30pm–10am Thursday, Friday; Live 12am-10am Sunday; Live 11pm-9am Sunday on Fox Sports 503 and Kayo

LPGA Tour Meijer LPGA Classic Blythefield Country Club, Belmont, Michigan 10:10pm* Minjee Lee 10:21pm Hira Naveed 10:21pm* Gabriela Ruffels 3:10am Grace Kim 3:54am* Robyn Choi

Defending champion: Leona Maguire Past Aussie winners: Nil Prize money: $US3 million TV times: Live 5am-8am Friday; Live 6am-8am Saturday, Sunday; Live 3am-6am Monday on Fox Sports 505 and Kayo

Korean PGA Tour/Japan Golf Tour Hana Bank Invitational Namchuncheon CC, Chuncheon, South Korea 9:10am* Junseok Lee 9:20am Matthew Griffin 1pm* Anthony Quayle

Defending champion: Jiho Yang Past Aussie winners: Junseok Lee (2022) Prize money: KRW1.3 billion

Ladies European Tour Ladies Italian Open Golf Nazionale, Italy Australasians in the field: Whitney Hillier, Kirsten Rudgeley, Momoka Kobori (NZ), Kelsey Bennett, Amy Walsh

Defending champion: Morgane Metraux Past Aussie winners: Corinne Dibnah (1991, 1994), Denise Booker (1995) Prize money: €300,000

Korn Ferry Tour Wichita Open Crestview Country Club, Wichita, Kansas 10:16pm* Tim Wilkinson (NZ) 10:58pm Rhein Gibson 11:08pm* Brett Drewitt 12:01am* Daniel Gale 3:10am* Dimi Papadatos 4:13am* Steven Bowditch

Defending champion: Ricky Castillo Past Aussie winners: Jeff Woodland (1992), Bradley Hughes (2004), Mathew Goggin (2011) Prize money: $US1 million

Challenge Tour Kaskáda Golf Challenge Golf Resort Kaskáda, Brno, Czech Republic 6pm Hayden Hopewell 6:20pm* Jeffrey Guan 11:10pm* Connor McKinney 11:20pm Blake Windred 11:20pm* Tom Power Horan

Defending champion: Martin Simonsen Past Aussie winners: Nil Prize money: €270,000

Epson Tour Otter Creek Championship Otter Creek Golf Course, Columbus, Indiana Australasians in the field: Amelia Garvey (NZ), Cassie Porter, Fiona Xu (NZ), Su Oh, Maddison Hinson-Tolchard, Amy Chu

Defending champion: Inaugural event Past Aussie winners: Nil Prize money: $US300,000

LET Access Series Amundi Czech Ladies Challenge Panorama Golf Resort, Czech Republic Australasians in the field: Belinda Ji (a), Stephanie Bunque, Hanee Song (NZ), Munchin Keh (NZ)

Defending champion: Marta Martin Past Aussie winners: Nil Prize money: €42,500

Legends Tour Paul Lawrie Match Play Hanbury Manor Marriott Hotel & Country Club, Hertfordshire 5:03pm Michael Long (NZ) v Andrew Raitt 5:47pm Peter Fowler v Clark Dennis 6:58pm Peter O’Malley v Robert Coles 7:20pm Scott Hend v Jean-Francois Remesy

Defending champion: Inaugural event Past Aussie winners: Nil

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