03 Sep 2021 | Professional golf |

Lee on top at Italian Open

by PGA of Australia

Min Woo Lee Italy image
On his way to 64, Aussie Min Woo Lee sizes up his putt at the ninth at the Italian Open. Photo: Getty

By Tony Webeck

A confident Min Woo Lee has earned a share of the lead with a brilliant round of seven-under 64 on the opening day of the European Tour’s DS Automobiles Italian Open at the Marco Simone Golf Club in Rome.

Still riding the wave of momentum generated by his abrdn Scottish Open victory in July, Lee was out early from the 10th tee and despite dropping a shot at the 11th hole following an opening birdie responded with five more birdies to make the turn in five-under 31.

He added further birdies at the third and sixth holes to be the first to post seven under, joined shortly after by former Open champion Henrik Stenson and Finland’s Kalle Samooja, the trio one stroke clear of Aussie Scott Hend, playing partner Eddie Pepperell and Edoardo Molinari, whose first round highlight was an ace at the par-three seventh. Lee’s victory in a playoff at the Scottish Open at the Renaissance Club not only earned the West Australian entry into his first Open Championship at Royal St George’s a week later but has instilled an enhanced sense of confidence over every shot.

“It was a strong field and definitely a bit of belief in myself and a bit of confidence,” Lee said of his Scottish Open triumph, the 23-year-old’s second European Tour title.

“I can step up on every shot and say, ‘Just do the same that you did at the Scottish Open.’

“It’s very nice. Life’s nice when your golf’s good.”

Playing the course that will host the 2023 Ryder Cup, Lee used a dominant day with the driver to give himself birdie opportunities at almost every turn.

He averaged 334 yards off the tee to rank first in driving distance on day one and hit 85.7 per cent of fairways, his 25 putts also the low number of the opening round in a complete performance.

"I hit it really good off the tee, didn’t really give myself position to make bogey,” said Lee.

"I made one but other than that I played solid and made my up-and-downs when I needed to.”

Like Lee, Scott Hend made a fast start from the back nine, rattling off three straight birdies from the 11th hole and adding another at the par-4 15th to make the turn in 4-under.

There was a slight stumble at the par-four first but he recovered with birdies at two, five and nine to sit just one back of the lead.

A double-bogey five on the par-three seventh was the only blot on Maverick Antcliff’s first round of 2-under 69 while Wade Ormsby (72) and Kiwi Ryan Fox (76) have work to do in the second round to make the cut.

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