04 Jun 2022 | Professional golf |

Lee shares 36-hole lead at US Women’s Open

by PGA of Australia

Minjee Lee.

By Tony Webeck

West Australian Minjee Lee will take a share of the lead into the weekend of a major for the first time in her career after a second round of five-under 66 at the US Women’s Open at Pine Needles.

Seeking to emulate Karrie Webb’s North Carolina triumph of 21 years ago, Lee had back-to-back birdies on three separate occasions in Round 2 to join American Mina Harigae (69) at nine-under through 36 holes.

They have a two-shot buffer from Korea’s Hyejin Choi (64) and three-time major champion Anna Nordqvist (68) with world No.1 Jin Young Ko (67) and Swedish amateur Ingrid Lindblad (71) tied for fifth at six-under.

Approaching 12 months since her major breakthrough at the Amundi Evian Championship, Lee has never before held a share of the lead at the halfway point of a major championship.

Although she didn’t speak to Webb prior to arriving at Pine Needles, she said post-round that she will call upon her experiences as a past recipient of the Karrie Webb Scholarship where she witnessed Webb’s major preparation first-hand.

“It was just really cool because that was kind of the very first experience I had at the US Open and to be with Webby, it was just even better,” Lee said of her US Women’s Open debut at Pinehurst in 2014.

“It was just nice to see how she goes about things and just to hang out with her is really cool in general.

“She has a really set routine. When she does her workout or when she has her massage, then it’s just at certain a particular time.

And then when she’s having dinner, she will socialise and then have her quiet time.

“It’s just very routine in that aspect.”

Playing in the afternoon wave, Lee expected the Pine Needles layout to be firmer, faster and affected by a strengthening wind but overcast conditions prevented the greens from drying out and quickening up.

Lee needed to take relief from the cart path right of the first green before playing a deft pitch to 10 feet and converting for a birdie at the opening hole.

The 26-year-old backed that up with a superb approach to three feet to set up a second straight birdie at the par-4 second, adding further birdies at eight and nine to make the turn in four-under par.

A three-putt bogey at the par-4 14th was Lee’s only backward step on Friday but she hit straight back, holing a putt from 10 feet at the par-5 15th and converting a putt from 13 feet at the par-3 16th.

A superb up-and-down at 17 ensured Lee would stay level with Harigae heading into the third round where the Australian insists she will continue to adopt a clinical approach to her shot execution.

“I’m not sure how the conditions are going to change and what time I’m playing, but I’ve been taking one shot at a time,” Lee added.

“The golf course can really catch up to you quickly, so just trying to take whatever I have in front of me as I go and whenever I have a birdie opportunity try to take advantage of that.

“That’s what I’m going to focus on and just do whatever I can that is in my control.”

Hannah Green kept her hopes of a second major championship alive with a second round of even-par 71 to be one-under as Grace Kim (72) advanced to the weekend in her first appearance at the US Women’s Open.

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