15 Jun 2023 | Professional golf |

Aussies on Tour: Minjee Lee chasing the highs of 2022

by Martin Blake

Minjee Lee Meijer image
Minjee Lee has been quiet in 2022 but that might all be about to change. Photo: Getty

The bad news for Minjee Lee is that she has gone almost half the calendar year and still does not have a win, which is an age for a player of her quality. The better news is that there are majors looming, her form is improving and she has plenty of time to recapture her stunning levels of 2022.

Lee, the world No. 5, steps up in the Meier LPGA Classic in Michigan this week, but she will have half an eye on the Women’s LPGA Championship next week at Baltusrol in New Jersey, the second major of the year for women.

The 27-year-old from Perth is one of a handful of Australians with more than one major championship (the 2021 Evian Championship and the 2022 US Women’s Open) but she wants more. She aspires to be No. 1 in the world but has left herself agonizing short twice – getting to No. 2 in 2019 and 2022 before losing momentum.

Her defence of the US Women’s Open she won at Pine Needles last year is just three weeks away at Pebble Beach as well with the biggest prize pool in the women’s game, $US10 million, on the line.

In her six starts on the LPGA Tour this year she has just one top-10 finish, at the Founders Cup where she played a superb final round, reached a playoff but uncharacteristically three-putted from the fringe and lost to Jin Young Ko of South Korea. She finished tied-13th at her last start in Jersey City but shot 75 in the final round when she looked to be in contention.

All of which points to a little rust and means that Lee will be looking to play well not only for the purposes of competing this week but also for a confidence-booster as the big moments of the season approach.

She will be joined in the field in Michigan by Hannah Green and Grace Kim, both already winners on the tour this year, and by her old sparring partner Su Oh who played her way in by finishing top-10 last week in New Jersey, as well as the burgeoning Steph Kyriacou.

Seven Australians are teeing it up this week in the US Open at Los Angeles Country Club headed by Cameron Smith and with Jason Day also looming as a danger to the rest of the field.

Amateur Karl Vilips, who is in the college system and shapes as one of this country’s brightest prospects, also played his way into the field for his first appearance in a major.

On the Challenge Tour in the Czech Republic, talented Ryan Ruffels makes another start after finishing inside the top 20 last week.

“I'm feeling excited about being able to build on that. I've got some more opportunities out here over the next few weeks and months, and it'll be fun to see if I can follow that up,” he told DPWorldTour.com.

Melburnian Ruffels is trying to play his way on to the DP World Tour after receiving invitations to play Challenge, and following a few years of injuries and disappointing results in the United States.

“The goal is to play my way in to some sort of status”, he said. “To continue playing for the rest of this season and then get my DP World Tour card at the end of the year would be amazing.

“I'm obviously going to have to play well, and there's a lot of great players that I'm around. They're going to make it hard for me, but that's ultimately the goal.

“The first goal would be to get some longevity out here, so I can continue to play past my invites because I love being out here. I've checked the schedule and there's some pretty cool places coming up that I'd love to play.” Tee times AEST PGA TOUR US Open Los Angeles Country Club, California 12.07am* Scott Stallings, Preston Summerhays, Lucas Herbert 1.02 Gary Woodland, Adam Scott, Corey Conners 1.02* Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day 1.35 Matthew McClean, Seamus Power, Ryan Fox (NZ) 6.21 Kurt Kitayama, Cam Davis, Russell Henley 6.32 Cameron Smith, Sam Bennett, Matt Fitzpatrick 6.54* Davis Thompson, Min Woo Lee, Justin Suh 7.16am Karl Vilips (a), Olin Browne Jr, David Puig Defending champion: Matthew Fitzpatrick Past Aussie winners: David Graham (1981), Geoff Ogilvy (2006) TV Times: Thursday 11.40pm-5am Round 1 Featured Groups Friday 5am-1pm Round 1 1pm-3pm Live From The US Open 11.40pm-5am Round 2 Featured Groups Saturday 5am-1pm Round 2 1pm-3pm Live From The US Open Sunday 12am-5am Round 3 Featured Groups 5am-1pm Round 3 1pm-3pm Live From The US Open Monday 12am-4am Round 3 Featured Groups 4am-12pm Round 4 12pm-2pm Live From The US Open

LPGA Tour Meijer LPGA Classic Blythefield Country Club, Belmont Michigan 9.37pm Su Oh, Sung Hyung Park, Sarah Schmelzel 9.59* Nasa Hataoka, Lydia Ko, Minjee Lee 3.10am In Gee Chun, Ayaka Furue, Hannah Green 3.10* Grace Kim, Hae Ran Ryu, Maja Stark 3.43 Stephanie Kyriacou, Min Lee, Emilie Kristine Pedersen Defending champion: Jennifer Kupcho Past Aussie winners: nil TV Times: Saturday 9-11am, Sunday 5-7am Monday 3-6am on Fox 503, Kayo Sports

Ladies European Tour Amundi German Masters Golf & Country Club Seddiner See, Berlin 4pm* Naomi Wafula, Karolin Lampert, Hanee Song (NZ) 5.06* Lea Anne Bramwell, Sophie Hausmann, Momoka Kabori (NZ) 8.40 Emily Krause, Mim Sangkapong, Wenyung Keh (NZ) 9.24* Kirsten Rudgeley, Whitney Hillier, Maria Hernandez Defending champion: Maja Stark Past Aussie winners: nil TV Times: Thursday-Friday 8-11pm, Saturday-Sunday 11pm-12 midnight on Fox 507, Kayo Sports

Japan Tour Hana Bank Invitational Chiba Isumi Golf Club, Chiba 8am* Won Joon Lee, Tomoyo Ikemura, Taiga Nagano 1.20pm Seung-Bin Choi, Jun-Seok Lee, Kazuki Higa 1.50* Yunseok Kang, Soon-Sang Hong, Anthony Quayle 1.40* Tae-Young Kang, Sang-Hee Lee, Brendan Jones Defending champion: Jun-Seok Lee Past Aussie winners: Jun-Seok Lee (2022)

Challenge Tour Kaskada Challenge Kaskade Resort, Brno, Czech Republic 5.10pm Ryan Ruffels, Aman Raj, Louis Klein 5.30* Sebastian Friedrichsen, Robert Foley, Connor McKinney Defending champion: Martin Simonsen Past Aussie winners: nil

Korn Ferry Tour Wichita Open Crestview Country Club, Wichita 10.16pm Scott Gutschewski, Brett Drewitt, Julian Etulain 12.01 Dodge Kemmer, Grant Booth, Cooper Schultz 3.10 Pierceson Coody, Dimi Papadatos, Brian Davis 3.31am* Rhein Gibson, Andrew Yun, Zack Fisher Defending champion: Norman Xiong Past Aussie winners: Mathew Goggin (2011), Bradley Hughes (2004), Jeff Woodland (1992)

PGA Tour Canada Royal Beach Victoria Open Uplands GC, Victoria, British Columbia 1.10am Ryan Linton, Cory Crawford, Kyle Karazissis 6.10 David Kim, Alexander Hermann, Jason Hong 6.20* Luke Schniederjans, Jack Trent, Tommy Kuhl Defending champion: Scott Stevens Past Aussie winners: nil

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