07 Jun 2022 | Professional golf |

Clayton: Lee is the player most likely to rival our greatest

by Mike Clayton

Minjee Lee US Women's Open scoreboard image
Minjee Lee broke the US Women's Open scoring record on Sunday. Photo: Getty

Whilst not the dominant player on the women’s tour, Minjee Lee, along with Nelly Korda, Jin Young Ko and Lydia Ko, is certainly one of them.

Australian golfers have long known she was a star but this week’s dominant performance at the US Women’s Open marks her as one with the chance to approach Peter Thomson’s ‘Five’ and Karrie Webb’s ‘Seven’, the two most significant numbers in Australian golf.

Jan Stephenson is the only other Australian to have won more than two major championships (assuming we are not counting Australian-born Walter Travis’ two British and two US Amateur championships at the turn of the 20 th century), but Lee has marked herself as the one most likely to rival our greatest players.

This is her second major championship, adding to her the Evian win on the shores of Lake Geneva eleven months ago.

Minjee began the final day at Pine Needles three-shots ahead of Mina Harigae and whilst in her mind it wasn’t wrapped up until midway though the final nine, it was in retrospect all over by the time she stood on the third tee.

Off the opening tee on Sunday afternoon, she showed the benefits of two years’ work and 20 added yards by ripping two long woods on to the par-5 most could not hit in two. The birdie was a formality, and a long putt went down at the next for another birdie and from there until the end the rest were comfortably held at arm’s length.

For the first mixed-field Australian Open at the end of the year, the timing couldn’t have been better. She, and presumably Cameron Smith, (always a great supporter of the national Open) will be the headline acts at Victoria and Kingston Heath and given how well both have played this year we barely need to rely on a cast of highly paid foreigners – on the men’s side anyway.

The men’s professional game, with the disruption engendered by Greg Norman and his tournaments under the auspices of Saudi Arabia, will likely look much different by December given the speculation around where it’s seemingly headed -- aside from a very expensive fight in court.

The first of the disruptor events tees off this week just outside of London on a course none would describe as one of the better courses in a city filled with them. Professional golf, though, has never seen first-class architecture as a prerequisite and long has it been said pros would be happy to play down the motorway for a million dollars.

It makes it a sure bet Norman could find a field happy to play down the proverbial motorway for $35 million of our dollars.

Dustin Johnson is the most highly paid attraction in London, and we wonder if they will be giving tickets away by the end of the week to ensure a gallery befitting a tournament paying out almost three times more money than anything the game has seen. If it seems obscene it’s because it is.

Thomson himself was the main proponent of a proper world-tour, a dream of his because we well understood there weren’t enough jobs in the United States for all those young men with aspirations to play professionally. Peter essentially created the Asian Tour and his presence, as the finest non-American player for the best part of two decades in Europe, Australia, Japan and New Zealand, did much to develop the fledgling professional game outside of the United States.

Combining what were disparate tours into one world tour outside of the United States was his mission and it should be the goal of those wanting to properly nurture the game without resorting to blowing it up.

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