01 Jun 2024 | Professional golf | Women and girls | Tournaments | Golf Australia |

Minjee Lee tied third and relishing tough US Women’s Open

by Jimmy Emanuel

Minjee Lee

It was another difficult day full of high scores at the US Women’s Open, where Australian Minjee Lee again displayed patience and top quality ball-striking to sit 1-under and in a share of third at the halfway mark.

Out early when the wind that has added to the immense challenge of Lancaster Country Club was fairly benign, Lee took full advantage to at one time share the lead.

The West Australian’s 1-under 69 leaves her as one of only four players under par at day’s end and three shots back of Thai leader Wichanee Meechai (67) on 4-under.

“I’m really enjoying my time so far. The course is a really lovely walk, so a lot of different type of holes, so a lot of character to the course. It’s just nice to look at, and it’s tricky,” Lee said.

“The rough is up. The greens are fast. That’s what I expect for a US Open. I’m enjoying it.”

Although perhaps not as enjoyable as Lee’s rare under par round, Friday was a successful day for a number of Australians in the field, with Hannah Green and Sarah Kemp recording rounds of 71 and 72 respectively to share 45th on 7-over, while Gabi Ruffels made the cut on the number of 8-over with a nerveless up-and-down on her final hole.

Tournament debutants Steph Kyriacou (13-over) and amateur Keeley Marx (17-over) fell short of the mark to make the weekend, while Kiwi Amelia Garvey sits alongside Green and Kemp, with Lydia Ko another of the pre-tournament favourites to miss the cut.

The weekend will also be devoid of world No.1 Nelly Korda, despite improving by 10 shots from Round 1 to Round 2. Her absence provides some relief for the likes of Lee after the American’s dominant run in 2024.

Chasing a second US Women’s Open title, and third major overall, the 28-year-old Lee exhibited all the necessary qualities at what is generally considered the toughest test on the LPGA calendar each year.

Starting at the 10th, Lee’s first birdie of the day came at the par-3 12th, where Korda had come undone a day prior. Lee made another at the next hole, before back-to-back bogeys saw her turn in even par.

Lee was then clinical on the front nine, with the 2022 champion’s run of consecutive pars only interrupted by a birdie at the par-4 fifth.

“I just try to stay within myself and just stay as grounded as I can and just try and execute each shot to the 100 per cent of my ability and obviously how I want to put full commitment into it,” she said.

“In terms of being patient and things like that, I think it comes with the nature of being at a US Open. You have to, because it’s so hard out there. Just try to stay in the moment.”

Ruffels certainly showcased staying in the moment late Friday when finding herself outside the cutline for most of the round before stringing together a hat-trick of birdies starting at the third, her 12th hole of the day.

The Victorian went long on the ninth green – her final hole – but played a superb chip from deep rough to two feet, tapping in to secure a tee time for Round 3.

“I used a 60 degree. I knew I had to chop down on it and it was going to be fast and just let it run,” Ruffels said of her chip.

“I knew I had to make par and just wanted to give myself a putt at it really. I was really, really grateful that it went to like a foot.”

She will be among a host of Aussies hoping to climb the leaderboard with early birdies that have been few and far between this week.

Lee’s attitude toward that very style of golf perhaps an inspiration for her fellow Aussies, while also an ominous warning for leader Meechai, who is chasing a first LPGA Tour win and has yet to record a major championship top-10.

“I mean, obviously I love playing US Opens,” Lee said.

“I love the challenge. I love the difficulty. I just love that I really need to think about what I’m doing and be strategic. Yeah, I enjoy it.”

The US Women’s Open is live on Fox Sports, available on Foxtel and Kayo.

Australasian Scores T3 Minjee Lee -1 T45 Hannah Green +7 T45 Sarah Kemp +7 T45 Amelia Garvey+7 T59 Gabi Ruffels +8 MC Lydia Ko +13 MC Steph Kyriacou +13 MC Keeley Marx (a) +17

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