03 Aug 2022 | Professional golf |
Minjee Lee chasing Aussie Open double
by Australian Golf Media
By Tony Webeck
Minjee Lee is using Cameron Smith’s journey to his Open triumph at St Andrews as inspiration as she seeks to follow suit at this week’s AIG Women’s Open.
The famed Muirfield Golf Club is the venue for the elite players in the women’s game, the Australian contingent bolstered to five by the late addition of Victorian Su Oh to the field.
Now a two-time major champion, Lee arrives at Muirfield as the No.2 player in the Rolex Women’s World Ranking but arguably the No.1 player on the planet.
She leads the Rolex Annika Major Award and in addition to her US Women’s Open victory was runner-up at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.
The 26-year-old has finished top-five in each of the past Women’s Open championships and after Smith’s major breakthrough at St Andrews can create a shared slice of history as the first Australians to complete the Open double since Greg Norman and Karen Lunn in 1993.
Like Smith, Lee has taken time to adequately adjust to the vagaries of links golf but now embraces the creativity necessary to excel.
“I really love playing at links golf courses,” Lee said.
“I just really love the hard conditions that we get and how much creativity we have to show. We have to think around these types of courses.
“It could be really cool and it would be a great honour to be able to win the British.” Smith shot an extraordinary back nine of six-under 30 to claim the Claret Jug last month, a scenario not unfamiliar to Lee.
When the West Australian earned her first major crown at the Amundi Evian Championship last year she came from seven back with a final round of seven-under 64 to force a playoff, a playoff she won with another birdie at the first playoff hole.
The respective Australian Amateur champions in 2013 and duelling for the 2022 Greg Norman Medal, Lee sees similarities between the path she and Australia’s most recent major champion have taken.
“Just a lot of hard work has come together,” Lee said of her and Smith’s outstanding seasons to date.
“We've worked so hard for our goals and our dreams to come true.
“I think for Cam, it's been a whole lot of hard work and a lot of long hours into his skills and abilities in his game.
“It’s the same for me, too.”
Possessing a swing developed with coach Ritchie Smith that never seems to falter, Lee and creativity might not be an obvious match.
No.1 on the LPGA Tour in both Strokes Gained: Tee to Green and Strokes Gained: Approach the Green, Lee has claims to being the best iron player in golf, man or woman.
It is that control which Lee believes holds her in good stead for whatever the Scottish weather might throw at her over the course of the next four days.
“Definitely the wind, maybe just for the control of the golf ball, I think it has helped me out in the past years,” said Lee, who was tied for fifth at Carnoustie last year and third at Royal Troon in 2020.
“Playing in the wind, you subconsciously kind of know how to spin the ball properly in the wind and also keeping it through the wind. How it's going to affect it, I think I know what it's sort of going to do.
“That's what makes you a better wind player.”
Befitting her current position in women’s golf, Lee has been drawn to play with world No.1 Jin Young Ko and world No.3 Nelly Korda the first two rounds, her championship to begin at 9.38pm AEST Thursday night.
Another omen in Lee’s favour is that her younger brother, Min Woo Lee, won the 2021 Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club which sits adjacent to Muirfield. AIG Women’s Open
Round 1 tee times AEST 3.41pm Whitney Hillier, Aditi Ashok, Angela Stanford 5.09pm Hannah Green, Ayaka Furue, Jeongeun Lee6 6.31pm Stephanie Kyriacou, Albane Valenzuela, Emma Talley 7.15pm Su Oh, Jeongeun Lee5, Olivia Cowan 9.27pm Lydia Ko (NZ), Nasa Hataoka, Leona Maguire 9.38pm Minjee Lee, Jin Young Ko, Nelly Korda Round 2 tee times AEST 4.47pm Lydia Ko (NZ), Nasa Hataoka, Leona Maguire 4.58pm Minjee Lee, Jin Young Ko, Nelly Korda 8.21pm Whitney Hillier, Aditi Ashok, Angela Stanford 9.49pm Hannah Green, Ayaka Furue, Jeongeun Lee6 11.11pm Stephanie Kyriacou, Albane Valenzuela, Emma Talley 11.55pm Su Oh, Jeongeun Lee5, Olivia Cowan Aussies in the field Minjee Lee World ranking: 2 Age: 26 Major wins: 2 (2021 Evian Championship; 2022 US Women’s Open) LET wins: 2 Best finish at AIG Women’s Open: 3rd in 2020 Best finish in 2022: Won Cognizant Founders Cup; Won US Women’s Open Hannah Green World ranking: 17 Age: 25 Major wins: 1 (2019 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship) LET wins: 0 Best finish at AIG Women’s Open: T16 in 2019 Best finish in 2022: Won Vic Open; Won TPS Murray River Stephanie Kyriacou World ranking: 106 Age: 21 Major wins: 0 LET wins: 2 Best finish at AIG Women’s Open: T13 in 2021 Best finish in 2022: T6 at Saudi Ladies International Whitney Hillier World ranking: 192 Age: 31 Major wins: 0 LET wins: 0 Best finish at AIG Women’s Open: MC in 2017, 2019, 2020, 2021 Best finish in 2022: 2nd at Jabra Ladies Open Su Oh World ranking: 127 Age: 26 Major wins: 0 LET wins: 1 Best finish at AIG Women’s Open: T15 in 2018 Best finish in 2022: Won Australian WPGA Championship
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