22 Mar 2023 | Professional golf |

Min Woo leans on Aussie upbringing in Texas

by Dane Heverin

Min Woo Lee.

Match play golf is a staple of the diet amateur golfers are raised on in Australia and fresh off a tied sixth finish at The Players Championship, Min Woo Lee is calling on the experiences of his youth at the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club in Texas.

The 24-year-old West Australian has been drawn against US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick, Sahith Theegala and J.J. Spaun in the group stage with only one player to progress to the Round of 16.

The cut-throat nature of the event suits Lee however, with his exciting style of play well-suited to the head-to-head contests.

“In Australia, we have a state versus state tournament every year. I played in the junior team and the amateur team. So, I feel like up until I was pro I played all those team events every year, which is probably more than usual,” Lee said.

“I just like how match play works. You can play the player as well as the course.

“When I play good, I make a lot of birdies, which is good for match play. Sometimes if your playing partner doesn’t hit a great shot, you have an advantage, but it is also nice stepping up on a tee and smoking a drive and putting the pressure on.

“Some people might not like it because stroke play’s a marathon, you get to plot along, make birdies, but I like to play golf more fun.”

In his amateur days, Lee faced off with the likes of PGA Tour player Harrison Endycott and ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia Order of Merit winner David Micheluzzi for state supremacy, but his match play prowess also included winning the US Junior in 2016.

That triumph put him on the same honour roll as Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth and Scottie Scheffler and Lee once again went through a similar experience to many of the top players in the world at The Players, albeit in different circumstances.

“I learned a lot. The Sunday wasn't the best Sunday, but there was a lot of players that came up to me and said that they have done the same thing, which is encouraging to me, because I did feel like I let it go a little bit, but I actually am proud of the way I finished,” he said.

“But you kind of look at the negative side in that situation and you're like, ‘oh, I could have done this, I could have done that’. But I mean, a lot of people have done that and, yeah, it's nice when the top pros have said, ‘I've done the same thing’, and they're No.1, No.2 in the world.

“So, it's just something that you learn from, and that happens on a Sunday, and it's not easy, and if it was, then the best would win every time. So, yeah, hopefully that was my learning step, and I can learn from that. I mean, you've done pretty good to get there in the first place, so you should be proud of that.”

The world No.47 also had the chance to secure a Masters berth for a second straight year in the final round of The Players, but a missed par putt prevented him from finishing inside the top-five and rising to world No.40.

The WGC Dell Technologies Match Play is the final opportunity to lock in that chance with players inside the top 50 in the world at week’s end invited to Augusta National and Lee making it out of his group would guarantee that his ranking stays where it needs to be.

Another impressive display this week could also lead to Special Temporary Membership of the PGA Tour for Lee which is given when a non-member earns the equivalent points of No.125 on last season’s FedEx Cup rankings.

Special Temporary Membership allows a player to play on the PGA Tour for the rest of the season before becoming a full member the following season.

“I would love to play over here in America against the best in the world, but I really like playing in Europe too. You have really good results there and when the schedule fits, I would love to play both tours. But, yeah, here's the place I want to be,” Lee said.

“And temporary membership, yes, it's close, but I got a few tournaments to make up for that and hopefully I can get to that.”

Lee is also learning about the ups-and-downs of professional golf from his two-time major winning sister Minjee.

After stellar performances across the five women’s majors last year that led to her winning the award for the best player in majors for the year, the older of the Lee siblings has experienced a dip in form but her younger brother is not claiming bragging rights despite him attracting plenty of attention recently.

“She's not playing the best right now and I feel kind of bad because I'm playing a bit better golf, and I don't want my sister struggling,” Min Woo said.

“It's tough to win out here, and she wins every year like it's nothing. She's such a good golfer.

“She's won a couple majors the last couple years, so I got to win a tournament over here to be able to say something. But she's still my big sister and I want her to do the best she can.”

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