22 Aug 2020 | Professional golf |

Lee roars into Open contention

by Mark Hayes

Minjee Lee stalks a putt at Royal Troon.
Minjee Lee stalks a putt at Royal Troon.

Minjee Lee crawled from the blocks, scampered to safety and then sprinted into contention today at the Women’s Open Championship.

Enduring a second consecutive day of wild weather lashing Scotland’s west coast, Lee rode out the worst of the conditions at Royal Troon to climb into a share of fourth.

Her second-round 69 left her at one over in total, just two behind the leader, Sweden’s Dani Holmqvist, who is the only player in the field under par at the halfway mark.

It was Royal Fremantle member Lee, though, who set tongues wagging around the storied course.

She made two bogeys to start her second round, but scrambled well on occasion through the middle part of the course that’s hosting its first women’s major.

But from the time she chipped in for birdie from the side of the usually tricky 11th, it was pure class from the world No.8.

Chances narrowly slipped by on holes 14-16, but a pair of cracking approaches to the final two holes set up perfectly judged birdie putts and the leaderboard march was on in earnest, her 69 matching Inbee Park as the day’s best round.

Afterward, Lee said the wind was not bothering her too much. "I haven't really seen the forecast for tomorrow or the weekend but I'm sure it's going to be windy," she said. "I think just at this point in time, I think can't really think too far ahead. Just stay in the moment. Stay patient with the wind."

Hannah Green, like her West Australian mate Lee, began slowly and took a double-bogey six on the tough 12th, but did well in the interim with three birdies to get home in 72 and comfortably inside the top 30 at five over.

Five of the nine Australians made the cut, with Katherine Kirk, Steph Kyriacou and Sarah Jane Smith doing just enough.

Kirk, the veteran Queenslander, runner-up at this event in 2010, made a crucial birdie at the par-5 16th, just enough to offset the fairly regular bogeys. Her 77 was good enough for a seven over total and an early guarantee of weekend action.

Smith shot a fine second-round 73 to get inside the nine-over cut-line while Kyriacou had a rollercoaster ride in her first major.

The young Sydney pro was two-over par and in overall contention through 10 holes of her second round, then suffered a meltdown in which she gave back seven shots in just six holes - five bogeys and a double. Ultimately, Kyriacou gritted out pars at the last two holes to shoot 78 to make the cut on the number.

The same happy fate was not on offer to Sarah Kemp or amateur Gabi Ruffels, both of whom flirted with the required mark for weekend play for chunks of the afternoon.

Ruffels, in her first visit to Scotland, let alone an Open championship, showed precisely why she’s so highly touted, with birdies on the sixth and 11th and carded a 73 to miss the cut by a shot.

Kemp was well place early, but a string of mid-round trouble led her to a 75-78 finish that left her at 11 over.

Su Oh made a pair of double-bogeys on the front nine, including on the long sixth where she made a nine on day one, to take her from contention at +13 with a 79.

Perth’s Whitney Hillier made three birdies, but counteracted them with three doubles and six bogeys for an 80 that left her at +15.

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