16 May 2022 | Professional golf |
Aussies On Tour: Minjee Lee's New Jersey triumph
by PGA of Australia
By Tony Webeck
Three late birdies have delivered Minjee Lee the seventh LPGA Tour title of her career at the Cognizant Founders Cup at Upper Montclair Country Club in New Jersey.
A one-shot leader at the start of the final round, Lee had to battle through struggles with her normally stellar iron play to stave off a charging Lexi Thompson, holing a three-foot birdie putt at the 72nd hole for a closing two-under 70, a 19-under total and a two-shot victory.
A superb second round of nine-under 63 put Lee in position to record her first win since her major breakthrough at last year’s Amundi Evian Championship but she would have to conjure willpower over execution to get it done.
What would ultimately prove to be a good bogey, Lee’s dropped shot after missing the green with her tee shot at the par-3 eighth brought Thompson (69) and Angel Yin (67) into the fight for the outright lead.
The trio were tied at the top early in the back nine and when Lee and Thompson both made birdie at the par-5 12th were locked together at 17-under with six holes to play.
Although her brilliant wedge into the tournament’s final hole was the perfect exclamation point, the 25-year-old credited her win with the birdie at the par-5 14th that restored her status as the solo leader.
“I knew the last four holes would be tough to make birdies on so I figured that if I made birdie on 14 it would give me a pretty good chance to be leading or tied leading going into 18,” explained Lee, who is now fourth on the all-time list of Australian winners on the LPGA Tour behind Karrie Webb (41), Jan Stephenson (16) and Rachel Hetherington (eight).
“That’s what turned the tables a little bit.
“In the very beginning I missed a couple of short putts and didn’t really catch that momentum.
“Through the middle and towards the end of my round my ball-striking kind of went out the window.
“I fought really hard this whole day and to finish with a couple of birdies and come out with the win is just really special.”
Ranked first in average proximity to the hole in six separate categories from 100 to 250 yards this season, the iron play for which Lee is revered left her when she needed it most.
The West Australian did hit 13 of 18 greens in regulation but said it was her mental strength that carried her across the line, an asset she can call on again as the chunk of the LPGA major season approaches.
“I don’t really remember the last time I worked this hard for a win,” said Lee, who is now 3-0 when holding the outright lead through 54 holes.
“Mentally I was in quite a good headspace, it was my iron play that I struggled with a bit on the back nine.
“I’m just proud of myself that I played four days of really good golf and I was able to fight through this round and come out with a win.
“I’m super excited for the events coming up. We have a really great stretch with the US Open, KPMG and I think if I keep working on the same things I’ll be in pretty good shape.”
Lee wasn’t the only Australian woman to have a win the past week, Whitney Hillier claiming the teams event as part of the Ladies European Tour’s Aramco Series event in Bangkok.
Paired with Chonlada Chayanun, Krista Bakker and amateur Pattanan Amatanon, Hillier and co. backed up their excellent first round to post a 31-under total for the two rounds to hand Hillier her first LET title.
“I’m so proud of my team,” said Hillier.
“Everything just flowed and obviously we played great golf, but we had a lot of the fun, so that was the most important thing too.
“This is my 10th year on tour, and for my first win to be in a team event, like that’s pretty cool.”
The best result for the Aussie men came with Stuart Appleby and Rod Pampling’s tie for third at the Champions Tour’s Regions Tradition tournament in Alabama while Kiwis Ryan Fox and Ben Campbell were unable to convert 54-hole leads on the DP World Tour and Japan Golf Tour respectively.
Fox finished runner-up behind England’s Sam Horsfield at the Soudal Open in Belgium while Campbell’s closing 72 saw him finish tied for eighth at the Asia Pacific Open Golf Championship Diamond Cup.
Cognizant Founders Cup
Upper Montclair Country Club, Clifton, New Jersey
Winner Minjee Lee 67-63-69-70—269 $US450,000
T12 Lydia Ko 69-74-69-67—279 $46,366
63 Sarah Kemp 72-69-71-75—287 $7,178
MC Stephanie Kyriacou 73-71—144
MC Sarah Jane Smith 71-77—148
MC Katherine Kirk 70-80—150
AT&T Byron Nelson
TPC Craig Ranch, McKinney, Texas
Winner KH Lee 64-68-67-63—262
T32 Adam Scott 67-69-71-65—272
T51 Marc Leishman73-66-69-67—275
T51 Jason Day 68-68-73-66—275
MC Brett Drewitt 69-72—141
MC Cameron Percy72-71—143
DP World Tour
Rinkven International GC, Antwerp, Belgium
Winner Sam Horsfield 65-69-69-68—271 €327,000.44
T2 Ryan Fox 68-68-66-71—273 €166,385.52
T58 Josh Geary 70-71-74-71—286 €5,578.24
MC Wade Ormsby 71-72—143
MC Maverick Antcliff 74-70—144
MC Zach Murray 72-78—150
Japan Golf Tour/Asian Tour
Asia Pacific Open Golf Championship Diamond Cup
Oarai Golf Club, Ibaraki, Japan
Winner Shugo Imahira 66-69-69-68—272 ¥20m
T6 Kazuma Kobori (a) 67-70-68-69—274 ------
T8 Ben Campbell 67-70-66-72—275 ¥3,033,333
T18 Todd Sinnott 66-68-77-68—279 ¥978,333
T43 Brad Kennedy 69-74-69-72—284 ¥560,000
T49 Jimmy Hydes (a) 67-73-75-70—285 -----
MC Jake Higginbottom 83-71—154
Ladies European Tour
Aramco Team Series – Bangkok
Thai Country Club, Bangkok, Thailand
Winner Manon De Roey70-67-66—203 €71,856.75
T8 Whitney Hillier 71-70-69—210 €11,736.61
Korn Ferry Tour
Visit Knoxville Open
Holston Hills Country Club, Knoxville, Tennessee
Winner Anders Albertson 62-67-65-66—260 $US135,000
T76 Ryan Ruffels 69-69-72-70—280 $2,820
MC Nick Voke 69-70—139
MC Curtis Luck 69-71—140
MC Harrison Endycott 69-72—141
MC Rhein Gibson 71-71—142
Greystone Golf and Country Club, Birmingham, Alabama
Winner Steve Stricker 65-68-66-68—267
T3 Rod Pampling 68-70-69-67—274
T3 Stuart Appleby 68-69-68-69—274
T3 Steven Alker 68-69-65-72—274
T26 David McKenzie68-76-72-67—283
T36 Stephen Leaney71-71-70-73—285
62 Robert Allenby 75-70-70-78—293
72 John Senden 81-72-76-75—304
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