Minjee Lee stared down the world No. 1 at Sentosa, but the challenge came from farther afield, and the Australian had to be content with second place again on the LPGA Tour.
Lee, 22, was runner-up for the second week in a row, and the fifth time in the past 10 months, two shots shy of South Korea’s remarkable world No. 2, Sung Hyun Park, who closed with the low round of the week, a brilliant 64 to win the HSBC Women’s World Championship.
The Perth superstar began the day a shot from the lead held by world No.1 Ariya Jutanugarn, and quickly seized the lead after the Thai played made an early double bogey. Lee led into the back nine but two groups behind her, long-hitting Park was making a run that no one could hold off.
Park birdied the first three holes and five of the first seven, caught Lee on the back nine and by the time she rolled in another birdie putt on the par-four 16th, around the same time that the Australian made a needless bogey from the fringe with a poor chip at the 14th, the Korean was out by two shots.
Park parred in from there like the wonderful player that she is, earning her sixth LPGA Tour victory.
For Lee, it was another near-miss although there are glass-half-full moments for her to savour. In her first week as a world top three player, she outplayed Jutanugarn on the final day, and shot a very creditable three-under par 69. It was just that someone else was better this time.
Park’s win was official when Lee’s short iron shot from 120 metres to the last green did not go in.
The Korean finished 15-under par, two ahead of Lee who was a further two shots ahead of a group at 11-under.
Lee had 13 top-10 finishes on the LPGA Tour last year and is already clocking up the strong finishes again in 2019; she was runner-up to Lydia Ko’s incredible playoff three wood in April last year beginning a string of second-place finishes in which she has not done a lot wrong.
Her only victory on the tour in the last 12 months was at the Volvik Championship in May. She was runner-up Ko at the Mediheal, runner-up in Texas, runner-up at the Scottish Open, in Taiwan at the end of last year and then again last week in Thailand, having a four-metre eagle putt at the last to join a playoff with Amy Yang that stopped just short of the cup.
It feels like Lee is banging on the door so hard that she will surely find a victory soon.