03 Jun 2023 | Professional golf | Women and girls |

Lee sets tournament low to lead Mizuho Americas Open

by Tony Webeck

Minjee Lee Mizuho Americas Open

Minjee Lee’s Friday birdie hunt proved productive as she shot to a share of the lead through two rounds of the inaugural Mizuho Americas Open in New Jersey.

The LPGA’s first foray at Liberty National Golf Club threw challenging conditions at Lee as she struggled to a 1-over 73 to be tied for 55th after the opening round.

Aware that Friday morning would provide conditions more conducive to scoring, Lee accumulated eight birdies inside her first 12 holes before closing with six straight pars for a round of 8-under 64, bettering Lauren Hartlage’s 65 on day one by one stroke.

Lee is tied for the lead at 7-under with American Cheyenne Knight (67) with Lydia Ko (68) outright third at 6-under and Jin Young Ko (66), debutant Rose Zhang (69), Brooke Henderson (70), Atthaya Thitikul (71) and Aditi Ashok (72) sharing fourth at 5-under par through two rounds.

“Even yesterday I didn’t feel like I hit the ball that badly. Putts weren’t really dropping and I was 1-over,” explained Lee, who hit 10 of 14 fairways and 14 of 18 greens with 24 putts on Friday.

“I came out here with a really good attitude and just tried to make as many birdies as I could.

“I holed some really great putts today. A few long ones and a few mid-range. I don’t think I had any tap-ins, so they were all really great putts.

“I’m going to obviously stick to my game plan and go one shot at a time. That’s always my motto.”

Lee wasted no time in making her move in Round 2, making three consecutive birdies in her first three holes and grabbing another at the par-4 fifth.

A week after celebrating her 27th birthday, Lee carded back-to-back birdies on holes eight and nine to turn in 6-under 30. She then made another birdie at the par 5 10th with her eighth and final birdie coming 12.

Tied for fifth after Round 1, rookie Grace Kim dropped to a share of 17th with a second round of 1-over 73 as fellow Sydneysider Stephanie Kyriacou snuck inside the cut-line with a round of 2-over 74 and 2-over total.

Lee is not the only Aussie enjoying a lofty position on the leaderboard.

In her rookie season on the secondary Epson Tour, Cassie Porter opened the Champions Fore Change Invitational in North Carolina with a round of 6-under 66.

That puts the Sunshine Coast product in a share of second, three shots back of China’s Yiyi Liu.

Without a top-25 finish in six starts this season, motherly advice may be behind Porter’s strong start, mum Di flying to the US and on the bag this week.

Starting from the 10th tee, Porter turned in 2-under but picked up shots at two, five, seven and nine for a bogey-free 6-under total.

Robyn Choi is tied with New Zealand’s Amelia Garvey in a share of 13th position after posting rounds of 4-under 68, two-time winner Gabi Ruffels looming just a shot further back in a tie for 20th after a round of 3-under 69.

At the Ladies European Tour’s Helsingborg Open in Sweden, Women’s NSW Open champion Momoka Kobori (70) is tied for sixth and just two strokes off the lead.

West Australian Whitney Hillier had a bogey on four, a birdie on five and 16 pars in her even-par round of 72 to sit in a tie for 21st at Allerum Golf Club.

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