26 Jul 2021 | Professional golf |
Minjee Lee's major triumph
by Martin Blake
Australia's Minjee Lee has won her first major championship. Lee, 25, from Royal Fremantle, birdied the first playoff hole in sudden death against South Korea's Jeongeun Lee6 at the Evian Resort in France to win the Evian Championship overnight. For some time now considered the best player in the world not to have won one of the five women's majors, the Perth-born superstar can now eliminate that thought from her mind as she heads to Tokyo to appear at her second Olympic Games.
This was her 37th attempt at winning a major and her previous best was third -- at the AIG Women's Open (aka the Women's British Open) in 2020 and the ANA Inspiration in 2017. Lee becomes just the fourth Australian woman to win a major, after Karrie Webb, Jan Stephenson and Hannah Green, the 2019 Women's PGA Champion who will join her at the Olympics in a few days' time. She came from seven shots back in the final round with a stunning 64 to take the victory. Lee had been 10 shots back at the halfway point of the tournament as Lee6 appeared to run away with it. But the Korean faltered on the final day, making three early bogeys to open the door, and ultimately shooting an even-par 71. Lee made seven birdies in her final round including one at the 72nd hole to take the outright lead, and munched on fruit as she waited for Lee to complete the final round. The Korean made a gutsy birdie to send it to sudden death, but the Aussie hit a pure mid iron second shot close to the flag for an eagle chance when they went down the 18th in the playoff, and Lee6's approach found water. The Korean made bogey, while Lee two-putted for another birdie at the win. "You know, I never really like thought about it when I was playing," she said later. "I just tried to make as many birdies as I could. I think I saw the leaderboard maybe once or twice. Just tried to play to the best of my ability, and it's really great to win a major. Yeah, it's just really amazing." Lee's younger brother Min Woo won the Scottish Open on the European Tour just a couple of weeks ago. Minjee Lee was a brilliant amateur who came through the Golf WA and Golf Australia programs under the tutelage of coach Ritchie Smith, being part of a winning Australian team at the World Amateur Championships in 2014 and twice winner of the Australian Amateur. Her mother Clara introduced her to the game. "I'm sure they're watching," she said. "I think it's really early in the morning, so I just want to say thank you for everything. They sacrificed so much for me. Yeah, no, I know they're really, really happy and I am, too." More recently she was a member of the Karrie Webb squad, travelling to the United States with the likes of Green and compatriot Su Oh to visit major championships with the all-time great of Australian golf. Now, she is in the club at last at her 36th attempt at winning a major. Ranked 14th in the world this week but as high as No. 2 a year or so ago, Lee has spectacular removed that monkey from her back. Tokyo beckons.
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