11 Jan 2022 | Professional golf |
The PGA: Inside the mind of Min Woo Lee
by PGA of Australia
By Tony Webeck at Royal Queensland
The fabled tale is that Greg Norman once launched a soaring drive over the original incarnation of the Gateway Bridge that towers over Royal Queensland Golf Club. To those lucky enough to play there on a regular basis it seems such a preposterous notion that the authenticity of the deed is discussed with one raised eyebrow; Min Woo Lee simply lasered it with his measuring device on Tuesday and nonchalantly declared that he could do it. If you know little of the 23-year-old West Australian now ranked No.49 in the world, the calm confidence he showed in eyeing off one of Australian golf’s most mythical shots gives an insight into his make-up. Tournaments are there to be won, records are made to be broken and headlining this week’s Fortinet Australian PGA Championship at RQ is merely a by-product of rapidly rising to the stratosphere that has been predicted since he was a barely a teenager. A second DP World Tour win at the abrdn Scottish Open in July was the backbone of a year in which he climbed inside the top 50 in the Official World Golf Rankings and at No.49 in the world is almost 200 spots clear of the next highest-ranked player in the field, Victorian PGA champion Blake Windred. It is a status that Lee has been building towards for the past three years. In 2019 he electrified the home galleries with a quarter-final run at the ISPS Handa World Super 6 Perth event. Still just 20 years of age, Lee went on a giant-killing charge that included the scalps of experienced European Tour players Gregory Bourdy and Belgian Thomas Pieters and sent an energy through the Lake Karrinyup fairways that very few can generate. Comfortable playing the role as poster boy for the first Australian PGA Championship since Adam Scott’s victory in 2019, Lee says it was his Vic Open triumph at the start of 2020 that solidified his place as the hunter and not the hunted. “I feel like at the Vic Open I kind of had that feel of being a high-ranked player,” said Lee, who put on a brilliant display of shot-making in extremely windy conditions to win by two. “Hopefully the crowds are going to be awesome and out there and cheering me on. “I think that’s a big advantage but I’m just going to go out there and play. “Hopefully I do play well and get the year rolling.” Averaging 310.33 yards off the tee in 2021 to rank 12th on the DP World Tour, Lee’s length is an advantage on any golf course he plays. The wide expanses of the Royal Queensland layout belie the strategy that is found within, Lee recognising in nine-hole practice rounds on Monday and Tuesday that where he hits it will be just as important as how far. “It’s a very quirky course,” was Lee’s summation of the Mike Clayton designed layout, Clayton serving as bagman for 19-year-old phenom Elvis Smylie this week. “Some of the greens are really tricky. It’s not a course where you can just hit average shots and get away with it, you’ve actually got to hit good shots. “I’m looking forward to the test. “The fairways are wide, but it’s nearly harder that way because there’s nothing to kind of like go into. “They’re such big fairways but when I get in the zone I’ll be fine.” Identifying that his pitching and work around the greens was an area in which he could make improvements, Lee has spent the past month at home in Perth working with coach Ritchie Smith on refining that part of his game. It is an area in which he will need to be sharp from Thursday to claim the Joe Kirkwood Cup at week’s end and start the year in much the same manner in which he finished the last. “The last three months from the end of the year everything’s been improving,” said Lee, a nominee for the 2021 Greg Norman Medal. “Everything that I’ve needed to get better at, I’ve been getting better at. “The more tournaments I play the more I get to practise what I’ve been practising and trying to resolve, so hopefully I can do that.”
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