07 Nov 2020 | Professional golf |
Minjee Lee's floodlit Dubai triumph
by Martin Blake
Minjee Lee has won the Ladies European Tour’s Dubai Moonlight Classic in a playoff, bringing to 12 the number of Australians to win an international tournament in 2020.
Lee, 24, shot a closing 69 to reach a playoff against France’s Celine Boutier at the Emirates Golf Club’s Faldo course, having missed a birdie opportunity from five metres on the 72nd hole that would have ended it earlier.
At the first playoff hole (the 18th on the course) and under lights at the unique floodlit tournament, she hit the green in regulation and then rammed home a birdie putt from six metres to complete her first win of the year.
The LET's event in the United Arab Emirates was the first-ever international pro tournament to be played under lights, giving Perth's Lee, the world No. 9, a little bit of her own history today.
"This year has been tough but this is a nice way to close it out," she said afterward. "I’ve really enjoyed the format and everything about the week, my second tie playing night golf was certainly memorable.”
Despite the long break in golf because of the Covid-19 pandemic, Australians have had a stellar year on international tours. Adam Scott, Marc Leishman, Cameron Smith (US PGA Tour), Lucas Herbert and Min Woo Lee (European Tour), Wade Ormsby (Asian Tour), Brad Kennedy (NZ Open), Brett Drewitt and Curtis Luck (Korn Ferry Tour), Won Joon Lee (Korean Tour) and Stephanie Kyriacou (LET) have preceded Lee’s win in Dubai.
Boutier, the 2019 Vic Open champion, seemed to be headed for the win with a two-shot lead through 15 holes of the final round, but hit her second shot on the par-five 16th found a penalty area right of the green, and a double bogey six produced a two-shot swing as Lee made birdie.
The Frenchwoman could only make par at the 17th and 18th and at the playoff hole, while Lee, who is ranked No. 9 in the world, completed her birdie in the playoff to pick up the 36,266 Euro first prize.
"I couldn’t really see the break too well on the last hole, but I thought it would be about two cups outside the right and luckily I hit it hard enough and it dropped," Lee said of her winning moment. "It feels pretty special to be here playing at night-time and the course has been amazing It’s been a really fun week.”
The LET now stays in the Middle East for the next two weeks with the $1 million Aramco Saudi Ladies International Presented by Public Investment Fund and the $500,000 Saudi Ladies Team International.
IN AMERICA, amateur Gabi Ruffels finished tied-fifth at the Symetra Tour Championship, closing with a one-under par 71 in North Carolina.
Dubai Moonlight Classic scores
206 (-10) M. Lee (Aus), 72, 65, 69. Won on 1st hole (hole 18) of the play-off with a birdie 3. 206 (-10) C. Boutier (Fr), 67, 71, 68. 207 (-9) L. Fuenfstueck (Ger), 67, 70, 70. 207 (-9) N. Iturrioz (Fra), 69, 71, 67.
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