31 May 2024 | Professional golf | Women and girls | Tournaments | Golf Australia |

Minjee Lee two off the lead at brutal US Women’s Open

by Jimmy Emanuel

Minjee Lee

Minjee Lee is the standout from the Australian contingent after a torrid opening day of the US Women’s Open, with the 2022 champion even par and two shots back of leader Yuka Saso.

Out in one of the afternoon’s featured groups alongside Lexi Thompson and Rose Zhang, Lee’s clinical ball-striking was on full display at Lancaster Country Club on a day where high scores were the norm and only four players registered rounds under par.

World No.1 Nelly Korda was just one to fully experience the course’s reputation as “The Beast”, making a 10 at the par-3 12th on her way to a first round 80.

Watching a birdie putt slide by at the 18th to become the fifth player in red numbers, Lee signed for a five birdie 70 to sit in a share of fifth on a forgettable day for the rest of the Aussies, with Gabi Ruffels and Sarah Kemp the next best at 5-over.

Hannah Green and amateur Keeley Marx on major debut are another shot back at 6-over, with Steph Kyriacou rounding out the Australians at 7-over.

Opening with a bogey, Lee quickly came to life with two birdies at the second and third, before returning to even par with a bogey at the next. The West Australian made the turn in 1-under after using the slope of the ninth green to set up a simple birdie.

The 28-year-old’s up and down round continued on the back nine where she mixed three bogeys with two birdies, the last of which came at the par-3 17th when rolling in a curling putt to end the day well placed to challenge for a third major title.

“When I made bogey, I was like, Oh, I really want to make birdie to get it back. I feel like I went back and forth kind of with being motivated after having a bogey,” Lee said.

“Obviously you don’t want to make bogeys, but they’re going to happen regardless because of the very tough conditions. So much slope on the greens, too, and the rough is up, as per US Opens should be.

“I just tried to play to the best of my ability, and that is what I can do.”

Ruffels fought hard with two late birdies, helping to lift her into a tie for 70th with Kemp who is playing her seventh US Women’s Open and would have been disappointed to close with two bogeys.

Entering the week as one of the favourites after winning twice already in 2024, it was a tale of two nines for Green.

The West Australian headed into the back nine at even par before a bogey at the par-4 11th was followed by a double at the next. Green continued to lose ground with bogeys at 15, 16 and 18 on a day where many of the big names struggled.

Marx will no doubt remember her first US Open birdie that came at the par-5 13th, while it was a traditional introduction to the event and it’s renowned difficulty for first timer Kyriacou, who managed a lone birdie at the 10th against six bogeys and a double.

It was a similarly tough day for the pair of New Zealanders in the field, with Amelia Garvey finishing 6-over and Lydia Ko’s 10-over 80 including an eight at the seventh hole.

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

Australasian Scores T5 Minjee Lee EV T70 Gabi Ruffles +5 T70 Sarah Kemp +5 T96 Hannah Green +6 T96 Keeley Marx (a) +6 T96 Amelia Garvey +6 T114 Steph Kyriacou +7 T138 Lydia Ko +10

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