25 May 2023 | Professional golf |

Aussies on Tour: Lee plays the long game

by Martin Blake

Min Woo Lee Texas image
Min Woo Lee has a temporary card for the US, but he wants something more permanent. Photo: Getty

Min Woo Lee is soaking up the adulation after earning a Special Temporary Membership of the PGA Tour, but as he prepares to tee it up again in Texas this week he has the bigger picture on his mind.

The 24-year-old Lee now has unlimited sponsors’ invitations for the rest of this season in America, which is quite something for a boy from Perth who dreamed of playing on the biggest stage.

But in the longer term the Royal Fremantle product is looking to secure his playing rights for the full 2024 season on the PGA Tour, and to do that, he needs to play well enough to finish the season with more Fedex Cup points than the 125th-ranked player, just as Cameron Smith did when he played his way on to the tour in 2014.

Currently he has accumulated 190 points; the 125th-ranked player, Harry Higgs, is on 204 points. But Lee still has two majors to play as well as whatever invitations he picks up between now and August.

It is a nice little short-cut option and very much within Lee’s reach now that the usual limit of seven sponsor’s tickets for non-members has been waived after he finished inside the top 20 at last weekend’s PGA Championship at Oak Hill.

“Obviously the bigger picture is to get a full card, but it's nice to tick that off,” Lee told media this week. “It kind of frees me up to not play in a time frame where you only have a few tournaments, seven specifically, not including the majors. So it's quite nice to have a bit of that freedom.

“I can hopefully play well and have a few more tournaments to play in. It's a really nice thing. It was kind of like a monkey on the back, and you kind of want to get it done quick, but I had three missed cuts just before. I think I put a little bit too much pressure on myself. So it's nice to tick that off.”

Lee is playing the Charles Schwab Challenge on the PGA Tour this week in Fort Worth, Texas with five other Australasian professionals, not so far from where his elder sister Minjee lives in Dallas. Mother Clara is stopping by later in the week to help with the laundry and the cooking, and quite likely Minjee as well.

He is grouped to play with last week’s PGA Professional sensation Michael Block on Thursday at Colonial Country Club, which will bring back a few good memories.

The pair played together randomly in Los Angeles six years ago when Lee was still an amateur. As for Block, his final-day hole in one at the PGA Championship has made him a household name in golf.

Already a two-time winner on the DP World Tour, Lee acknowledges that he is a work in progress.

“I think obviously that's just how golf is. With my youngness, I think I will just learn from experience and get better. I don't have a perfect game right now. I still was nearly ranked like bottom 10 of approach play (at Oak Hill), and I still ended up coming in 18th. If I can get that better, I know I can compete.

“It's just an experience thing. I have the ability to play well, and I'm still trying to eliminate the bad stuff. I know it's all part of it, and it's going to be, I guess, hopefully a long journey, and hopefully I can just rise up the ranks just one by one. When the time's right, it will come.”

Colonial is a par-70 and relatively short, meaning Lee will put the driver away somewhat this week. “A lot of people know that I like hitting that 2-iron,” he said. “It's going to be a good week. Hopefully I can execute.”

Among those also competing in Texas is Cam Davis, whose career-best tied-fourth in the PGA Championship last week has seen him rise into the top 50 in the world for the first time ever at No. 49.

Meanwhile the seniors have their own moment in the sun this weekend in Frisco, Texas with the playing of the Senior PGA Championship, which boasts a bunch of Aussies including Andre Stolz, who earned his berth by winning the Order of Merit on the SParms PGA Legends Tour at home.

Stolz had a nightmare trip to Texas with his original flight out of Nadi delayed so that he missed his connection to the US. Stolz posted on his Instagram account his week about the drama, which included a flight headed to Dallas which had to return to Los Angeles because of a cabin pressure issue.

A cancelled car rental and the failure of his bags to arrive topped it off. “Couple of tired people!” joked Stolz. Tee times AEST PGA TOUR Charles Schwab Challenge Colonial Country Club, Fort Worth, Texas 10.42 pm* Zac Blair, Tyson Alexander, Ryan Fox (NZ) 11.26 Sepp Straka, Lucas Herbert, Richy Werenski 11.42 Aaron Baddeley, Will Gordon, Erik Compton 3.44 am Kurt Kitayama, Viktor Hovland, Cam Davis 4.28 Michael Block, Min Woo Lee, Pierceson Coody 4.39 Zecheng Dou, Harrison Endycott, Akshay Bhatia Defending champion: Sam Burns Past Aussie winners: Adam Scott (2014), Ian Baker-Finch (1989), Bruce Devlin (1966), Bruce Crampton (1965) Friday: 6am – 9am, Fox Sports 503 & Kayo TV Times: Friday-Saturday: 6am-9am; Sunday-Monday: 3am-9am Fox Sports 503 and Kayo Sports

PGA Champions Tour Kitchen Aid Senior PGA Championship Fields Ranch East, Frisco, Texas 10.15pm Michael Long (NZ), Tim Weinhart, Joe Durant 10.43 Bob Sowards, Rod Pampling, Charlie Wi 11.05 Steve Alker (NZ), Rocco Mediate, Padraig Harrington 11.38 Jim Furyk, Richard Green, Lee Janzen 12.11am Dave McNabb, Keiichiro Fukabori, David McKenzie 3.41 Tracy Phillips, Andre Stolz, Steen Tinning 4.09* Stephen Ames, Billy Andrade, Michael Campbell (NZ) 4.42* Mark Hensby, Steve Stricker, KJ Choi 5.15* Gary Wolstenholme, Jeff Brehaut, Stuart Appleby Defending champion: Steve Alker Past Aussie winners: Peter Thomson (1984) TV Times: Friday-Saturday: 4am-7am; Sunday-Monday: 4am-7.30am Fox Sports 505 and Kayo Sports

LIV Golf Liv DC Trump National Golf Club, Washington 3.15am Saturday (shotgun) Cameron Smith Marc Leishman Jediah Morgan Matt Jones Defending champion: inaugural tournament Past Aussie winners: nil TV Times: 7Plus (times TBC)

Korn Ferry Tour Knoxville Open Holston Hills Country Club, Tennessee 9.15pm Roger Sloan, Dimi Papadatos, Mitchell Meissner 2.15 Rhein Gibson, Joshua Creel, Kevin Dougherty 3.05 Chandler Phillips, Brett Drewitt, Ashton Van Horne Defending champion: Anders Albertson Past Aussie winners: Jarrod Lyle (2008), Kim Felton (2005)

PGA Tour Latinoamerica Colombia Classic Ruitoque Golf Club, Bucaramanga, Colombia 9.45pm* Franco Scorzato, Carlos Bustos, Harry Hillier (NZ) 10.15 Denzel Ieremia (NZ), Jake McCrory, Tommy Cocha 3.15am* Evan Knight, Charlie Hillier (NZ), Eddy Lai Defending champion: Tommy Cocha Past Aussie winners: nil

LPGA Tour Bank of Hope LPGA Matchplay Shadow Creek golf course, Las Vegas 3.10am Sarah Kemp v Cheyenne Knight 3.20 Karis Davidson v Xiyu Lin Defending champion: Eun-Hee Ji Past Aussie winners: Nil TV Times: Friday-Saturday 9am-noon; Sunday-Monday 8am-11am Fox Sports 503 and Kayo Sports

Epson Tour Inova Mission Inn Resort and Club Championship El Campeon golf course, Howey-in-the-Hills, Florida Australasians playing: Gabriela Ruffels, Robyn Choi, Amelia Garvey (NZ), Sarah Jane Smith, Hira Naveed, Cassie Porter. Tee times TBC Defending champion: Gina Kim Past Aussie winners: nil

DP World Tour KLM Open Bernardus golf course, Cromvoirt, Netherlands 4.20pm Niklas Lemke, Yeongsu Kim, Daniel Hillier (NZ) 12.00* Blake Windred, Calum Hill, Aguri Iwasaki Defending champion: Victor Perez Past Aussie winners: Stephen Leaney (2000), Graham Marsh (1985), Graham Marsh (1979), Jack Newton (1972) TV Times: Thursday-Friday 9.30pm-11am; Saturday 10.30 pm-1am; Sunday 8.30pm-2am on Fox Sports 503 and Kayo Sports

Japan Tour Mizuno Open Setonaikiai Golf Club, Okayama, Japan 8.50am Toru Tanaguki, Yosuke Tsukada, Brad Kennedy 9.10 Tomahiro Ishizaka, Ryo Katsumata, Dylan Perry 1.25pm* Brendan Jones, Naoyuki Kataoka, Satoshi Kodaira 1.45 Taiga Semikawa, Taiga Nagano, Anthony Quayle Defending champion: Scott Vincent Past Aussie winners: Brendan Jones (2013), Brad Kennedy (2012), Chris Campbell (2005), Brendan Jones (2004), Roger Mackay (1991), Brian Jones (1990)

Challenge Tour Copenhagen Challenge Royal Golf Club, Copenhagen, Denmark 4.20pm Jarryd Felton, Stuart Manley, Christian Jacobsen 4.30 Jordan Zunic, August Thor Host, Aman Gupta 4.40 Maverick Antcliff, Albin Bergstrom, Felix Palson 8.40 Manuel Elvira, Connor McKinney, Keenan Davidse Defending champion: Freddy Schott Past Aussie winners: nil

Ladies European Tour Belgian Ladies Open Naxhelet Golf Club, Belgium Australasians competing: Whitney Hillier, Momoka Kobori (NZ), Kirsten Rudgeley, Wenyung Keh (NZ), Hanee Song (NZ) Defending champion: Linn Grant Past Aussie winners: nil

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