26 Nov 2023 | Professional golf |
Min Woo Lee wins his first Australian major
by Tony Webeck
West Australian Min Woo Lee has enhanced his standing as one of world golf’s most electrifying young players with a three-stroke win at the Fortinet Australian PGA Championship.
Lee bounced back from an early bogey to close out his win with a 3-under par round of 68 and 20-under par total at Royal Queensland Golf Club, Japan’s Rikuya Hoshino (68) showing admirable composure in the final group to snare second at 17-under.
Victorian Marc Leishman, whose 7-under 64 was the best of the last day, birdied his final two holes to claim outright third with Lee’s good friend and fellow West Australian, Curtis Luck, playing the back nine in 4-under for a round of 69 and fourth spot.
“I’ve always thought I could win, but it took a while to get over the hump,” Lee said on the 18th green.
“But two wins in the last month or so, I’m really proud of my team and myself.
“I made it interesting early on and through the middle, but ended up hanging on, so I’m really proud.”
Projected to elevate Lee to a career-high of No.38 on the Official World Golf Ranking, the win is Lee’s second on the Challenger PGA Tour of Australasia and third on the DP World Tour.
A leader by one after 36 holes and three through 54, Lee’s pitch-in for eagle at the par-5 ninth restored a buffer that had all but disappeared after just one hole on Sunday at Royal Queensland Golf Club.
A second shot at one that speared towards the enormous gallery behind the green led to an opening bogey, world No.138 Hoshino turning a three-shot deficit into just one with birdie.
He joined Lee at 16-under with a follow-up birdie on two before Lee flirted with a hole-in-one on his way to a birdie at the par-3 fourth.
The 25-year-old played another brilliant approach to set up birdie at the par-4 sixth but it was his miraculous chip-in just prior to making the turn that sent shockwaves throughout RQ.
“That was probably the best atmosphere shot I’ve ever hit,” Lee added.
“I’ve had a few chip ins, but at that point it was getting close and I was in a pretty average position after the tee shot. So to chip that in, it was amazing.
“I want to see it straight away. I would like to see it. It was one of the best shots I’ve probably hit.”
He emerged from the tunnel at the par-3 17th with a four-shot advantage and, despite disappointing the fans by missing the green left, made the putt from four feet for par for a reception befitting the sweet-swinging rock star he is quickly becoming.
A second shot into the back bunker on the 72nd hole kept the tension high until the very end, a closing bogey doing little to dull the celebrations of a maiden Joe Kirkwood Cup victory.
Although it didn’t come on the heaving party hole, Joaquin Niemann delivered one of the highlights of the final round with a hole-in-one at the par-3 fourth, holing his 8-iron from 164 metres.
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