Date: April 22, 2017
Author: Mark Hayes

Lee pounds out Sage record

Min Woo Lee is forming an American habit – and it’s a beauty.

The Perth sensation, the reigning US Boys’ Amateur champion and 2015 Aaron Baddeley International champ in California, posted a sensational seven-under-par 65 today to seize the lead with one round to play in the Sage Valley Junior Invitational in South Carolina.

And right at home in his second trip to the spectacular Graniteville layout, only minutes from Augusta, Lee then took great pleasure in outdriving countryman and world No.3 Jason Day in a driving exhibition after the second round was completed.

Lee, who roared home in last year’s final round, had begun today four off the pace at one under, but used a combination of his staggering length and brilliant putting to peel off six birdies and an eagle against just one bogey to equal the tournament record.

His eight-under total looked as though it might be good for second behind joint overnight leader, Chile’s Joaquin Niemann. But the world No.2 amateur endured water trouble on the tough 17th and his triple bogey dropped him back from 10 under to a share of second at seven under alongside American Garrett Barber (66).

Two of the four other Australians in the elite 54-man field remain in the hunt, too.

Joint first-round leader Cameron John had a tough back nine, including a double-bogey six on the 14th, but his 74 left him at three under and tied sixth.

Fellow Victorian Karl Vilips, just 15, was again impressive in carding a 69 just three days after being hit in the head during a practice round. Vilips leapt up to three under alongside John and will like his chances of going low in the final round.

Perth’s Fred Lee looked in trouble after he opened today with a double-bogey to compound his opening 75. But the hero of Western Australia’s junior Interstate triumph last week hit back with a string of birdies to shoot a 71 and climb to T28 at two over.

Queenslander Jack Trent was hanging tough until he, too, became a victim of the 17th with a quadruple-bogey eight the main factor in his second-round 77. He fell to T35 at four over.

But the day belonged to Lee, whose imposing length enabled him to hit short approaches into several long par-fours including, remarkably,  a 52-degree wedge into the 454m 17th that cause so much trouble to others.

Lee also hit a wedge for his second to 500m par-five 15th and carded his second consecutive eagle on the par-five fourth hole.

But the key, Lee told, was his putter that he struck just 12 times on the back nine.

“I felt good over everything,” said Lee, who birdied Nos. 10, 13 and 15-17 on his way home, including a superb 3m slider on the long 205m par-three 16th.