Golf Australia

Let's talk about 6

Jeongeun Lee6
Jeongeun Lee6 kisses the US Women's Open trophy.

There are myriad numbers used to analyse golf tournaments, but today only one matters – SIX.

Korean Jeongeun Lee6 – who chose the adaptation to distinguish herself from five previous Korean LPGA players with the same name – is the new US Women’s Open champion.

Lee6 tamed an extremely problematic Country Club of Charleston Club today, carding a 70 – her fourth consecutive sub-par round – as her closest rivals battled hard and left her a two-stroke winner.

Angel Yin (68) and So Yeon Ryu (70) joined Lexi Thompson (73) late as joint runners-up at four under in total.

But it was the quartet of Mamiko Higa (74), Jaye Marie Green (74), Yu Liu (75) and the last brick in the wall to fall, the ISPS Handa Vic Open champion Celine Boutier (74), who were her only legitimate challengers. American Gerina Piller, played the day’s second best round of 68 to join them late in a share of fifth at three under.

Yet all fell to the grinding precision of Lee6, 23, who became, remarkably, the 15th different Korean to win a major championship since Se Ri Pak broke through in 1998 as the first. Since 2012, Korean women have now won 18 of the 36 major championships on offer.

As Korea celebrated again, Australia’s drought stretched to 59 majors despite three more gallant attempts.

Queenslander Katherine Kirk had a great run early in her final round to reach even par, but closed with four back-nine bogeys to fall back to four over.

Joining her in that share of 34th was Hannah Green, who played the best round of her short major championship career for a round-best four-under-par 67.

But the chief Australian story will again rest with her fellow West Australian Minjee Lee, who narrowly missed her fourth top-10 major finish when she carded a 73 to finish at one under and T12.

Lee, the world No.2, had the most birdies of all players in Charleston this week – her 18 compared to the 16 of champion Lee6 – but again suffered an “other” on her scorecard.

Remarkably, Lee endured a triple-bogey and two double-bogeys for the tournament, the last of which came on the signature par-three 11th hole today to effectively end her title hopes.

Lee played that hole – measuring between just 145-170m – five over par for the week, the ultimate difference between her score and the winner’s.

But that would detract from Lee6’s deeds as she pocketed the first million-dollar cheque in women’s major championship history.

Lee6, in her rookie year on the LPGA Tour but already a seven-time winner on her native KLPGA, is a warm character who admirably plays to support her family after her father, Jung Ho Lee, was paralysed in a truck accident when she was four.

“As I'm a rookie player … I didn't even expect to win the tournament this fast. I think this is very lucky that I won this major championship,” a modest Lee6 said.

“When I first (won a) tournament on KLPGA, I shot six under and this is kind of really interesting how I finished six under at an LPGA tournament (today, too).

“So this is really lucky number to me.

“I was nervous starting 16, 17, and 18 (with a three-shot lead) and I knew that if I make all pars on those holes, I knew that I'm going to win this tournament.”

Two of those holes – 16 and 18 – ended in bogey, but as Boutier missed a short birdie try on 16 and took a double on the last, it mattered little to Lee6.

“So my goal was, if I win the tournament, I can eat ramen. If I finish the top five, I can buy shoes. But (now) I can buy shoes and eat ramen. So it's a double,” Lee6 joked when asked about winning the huge cash prize.


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