06 Jun 2022 | Professional golf |

Lee joins legends with record-breaking US Women's Open win

by PGA of Australia

Minjee Lee.

By Tony Webeck

West Australian Minjee Lee has added her name to the greats of Australian golf and claimed the records of Hall of Famers in winning the US Women’s Open by four strokes at Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club.

At the site where Karrie Webb won her second consecutive US Women’s Open by eight strokes 21 years ago, the 26-year-old joined Webb and Jan Stephenson as the only Australian women to win the US Women’s Open and to win multiple major championships.Having fulfilled her major destiny at last year’s Amundi Evian Championship, at Pine Needles Lee became just the sixth Australian golfer to win more than one major, Peter Thomson (5), David Graham (2) and Greg Norman (2) the only Aussie men to triumph more than once in golf’s showpiece events.“It’s such a great honour just to be amongst those two names,” Lee said of joining Webb and Stephenson as a multiple major champion.“It’s just really, really special.“This is the one I’ve always wanted to win since I was a little kid, so it just feels pretty amazing to be able to get it done today. I just can’t believe it.”Three shots clear at the start of the final round, Lee asserted her dominance with birdies at both of her opening two holes.The lead grew to be as large as six at the 12th hole and runner-up Mina Harigae (72) never got within four as Lee closed with an even-par 71 and a four-stroke win for the record books.Her four-round score of 13-under par is second only to Juli Inkster’s 16-under total in 1999 but there were records broken and rare company achieved in victory:

  • 271, lowest 72-hole score in championship history (272, Annika Sorenstam, 1996; Juli Inkster, 1999; In Gee Chun, 2015)

  • Seventh player to win both US Junior Girls and US Women’s Open (Amy Alcott, JoAnne Gunderson Carner, Inbee Park, Hollis Stacy, Mickey Wright, Ariya Jutanugarn)

  • First woman to win majors in consecutive years since In Gee Chun (2015-2016)

  • Third Australian to win US Women’s Open (Jan Stephenson, 1983; Karrie Webb 2000-2001)

For her win, Lee receives:

  • Record $US1.8 million in prize money

  • Gold medal

  • Custody of Harton Semple Trophy for one year

  • Exemption into the next 10 US Women’s Open Championships

  • Exemptions into the next five playings of the ANA Inspiration, AIG Women’s British Open, KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and Amundi Evian Championship

When she won the 2012 US Junior Girls championship Lee said that it was just the first United States Golf Association title that she would win, stating, “I’m definitely coming.”

She arrived as a force on the LPGA Tour many years ago but with two majors inside 12 months is rapidly ascending into territory reserved for the very greats of the game.

“This just didn’t come out of nowhere. This is years and years and years of discipline and hard work, grinding and no doubt some disappointments,” NBC lead analyst Brandel Chamblee added.

“She’s got two major championships now and since 2008 there are only three women who have won more than two major championships.

“She’s definitely coming.”

A two-time Karrie Webb Scholarship holder, daily text messages from Webb this week were a constant source of inspiration, a phone call from younger brother Min Woo at the presentation ceremony now a treasured family memory.

Given her putting has rarely lived up to the ball-striking that is considered among the best on the planet, the US Women’s Open had not been a comfortable fit in Lee’s career to date.

In eight previous appearances she had never once broke into the top-10, her best result coming with a tie for 11th in 2017.

Yet a change to her putting grip with coach Ritchie Smith has improved her propensity to make putts  from mid-range, par saves that were crucial in maintaining her significant advantage on Sunday.

She was tied sixth for total putts (115) and second in strokes gained putting, all the while finishing fourth in greens in regulation (78.87 per cent) for the championship.

“I was pretty nervous all day, to be fair,” Lee conceded.

“I didn’t hit it that well. I had really good saves, up-and-downs from a lot of the places, and then finishing I had a couple birdies and a couple bogeys. I think that was enough to get it done today.”

Growing up in Perth Lee had dreamt of making a putt on the 72nd hole to win the US Women’s Open.

The dream didn’t include a nervy missed par putt from five feet but the subsequent two-foot putt for bogey saw the manifestation of the same result.

“This one was the one that I’ve always wanted to win so this is extra special. I feel pretty amazing right now,” Lee said.

“I for sure have done it (pretended to have a putt to win the US Open). This is to win the US Open, like for a little five-footer. I’ve done that plenty of times when I was growing up.

“When I was little I was like, Oh, it’s such a cool trophy. But then when I was growing up playing, the highlights of ‘Webby’ winning and Lorena (Ochoa) and a lot of people I looked up to, Annika (Sorenstam) winning.

“That’s maybe what kind of sparked my love.”

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