02 Jun 2024 | Professional golf |

Minjee moves into top spot at US Women's Open

by Tony Webeck

Minjee Lee US Women's Open Round 3
Minjee Lee shot 66 on Saturday to earn a share of the lead at the US Women's Open. Photo: Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Australian Minjee Lee took full advantage of what she described as an ideal Saturday set-up to match the low round of the tournament and take a share of the lead at the US Women’s Open.

Lee will begin the final round at Lancaster Country Club in Pennsylvania in a tie for the lead with Wichanee Meechai (69) and Andrea Lee (67) at 5-under courtesy of a 4-under 66 in Round 3, equalling Japan’s Hinako Shibuno for low round of what has been a brutal week thus far.

Seeking to join Hall of Famers Peter Thomson, Karrie Webb and Jan Stephenson as the only Australians to win more than two major championships, Lee and coach Ritchie Smith headed straight to the range post-round to work on a driver that found just six of 14 fairways on day three.

It shapes as the only potential chink in the armour as she endeavours to add the 2024 championship to her dominant 2022 US Women’s Open win at Pine Needles and 2021 Evian Championship victories.

“I thought the golf course was set up really well for moving day, Round 3,” said Lee.

“There was a lot of opportunities for birdie out there, but obviously if you’re not on the fairway, it’s a little bit tougher for pars and high scores.

“I just thought it was a really great job by USGA setting up today.”

Revealing that she would spend the night before the final round reading tennis legend Andre Agassi’s autobiography, Open, Lee is ready to embrace the emotions that come with playing in the final group on Sunday in a major.

“Definitely embrace it,” said Lee.

“I feel like you don’t always get to feel these feelings, so just kind of try to embrace the best that you can, adrenaline, a lot of the good stuff.

“It brings a lot of the good stuff, too.

“I’ve played in a few last groups before. I’m sure I’ll have nerves. US Opens… even that last putt on 18 I was nervous.

“I’m just going to try and stay in the moment. It’s always nice to be in the final group. It means you’re contending.”

When 36-hole leader Meechai birdied her opening hole, Lee found herself four strokes off the lead.

It would stay that way through her opening six holes before the 28-year-old made her move at the par-5 seventh.

A tee shot of 280 yards found the left side of the fairway, leaving Lee with 188 yards to the hole.

The iron play that has been a feature of her career again came to the fore, hitting her 6-iron approach shot to inside two feet for a timely eagle.

Meechai would also birdie seven to push out to a three-shot lead, a lead that would be eroded shortly after the turn.

The Thai made her first bogey of the day at the par-4 10th and when Lee, playing in the group ahead, birdied both 11 and 12 she was tied for the lead at 5-under par.

The pair both dropped a shot at the par-4 14th and then Lee countered Meechai’s birdie on 15 with one of her own at the short par-4 16th, rolling in a 17-foot downhill curling putt dead centre.

There were near misses at both 15 and 17 before a wicked lip-out on 18 that denied her the outright lead but secured her spot in the final group with American Andrea Lee on Sunday.

Hannah Green and Sarah Kemp both enhanced their positions on the leaderboard on Saturday with rounds of 2-over 72 to be tied 39th heading into the final round, Gabi Ruffels dropping into a tie for 73rd with a round of 75.

US Women’s Open Round 3 T1 Minjee Lee 70-69-66—205 T1 Andrea Lee 69-69-67—205 T1 Wichanee Meechai 69-67-69—205 T39 Hannah Green 76-71-72—219 T39 Sarah Kemp 75-72-72—219 T73 Gabriela Ruffels 75-73-75—223 MC Steph Kyriacou 77-76—153 MC Keeley Marx (a) 76-81—157

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