Date: June 29, 2017
Author: Martin Blake

Minjee Lee ready to win major

Minjee Lee's coach Ritchie Smith says the Perth superstar is ready to win a major.

Lee's latest chance comes this week at the KPMG Women's PGA Championship beginning tonight at Olympia Fields outside Chicago, and Australia's top-ranked female player and world No. 16 is in excellent form, coming off three top-10 finishes.

Smith, who is Lee's longtime coach, says she is playing her best-ever golf after recent improvements in her short game, notably chipping and wedge play.

"I think she'd be in the top three or four players in the world, currently,'' he told Golf Australia's 'Inside the Ropes' podcast today.

Asked if she was ready to take the step to winning majors, Smith said: "I don't think there's any question she's capable, and I think she's ready. The last period of time has been good for her confidence.''

Smith believes Lee has the logistics correct now, including moving into a house in Dallas and having her family around her. "We tend to forget she's only just turned 21. She's not a hard person … she's driven but she's not ruthless with her competition but she's learning to be. We're training in a manner that there's no acceptance of poor results. Once she does it, look out, I think she'll do it again and again.''

In the firestorm that followed the first women's major of the year, the ANA Inspiration at Mission Hills in California, it went without much notice that Lee recorded her best major finish.

Lee closed with 69 in the final round and ended up a single shot from the playoff that saw So Yeon Ryu beat Lexi Thompson, who had suffered a four-shot penalty for an incorrect marking of her ball on the putting green in the previous round, along with signing for an incorrect score.

The Thompson furore carried on for weeks but Lee walked away with a tied-third finish and new energy leading into the rest of the season.

Contending in a major had been the missing link Lee, who for at least a year now has been Australia's top-ranked player.  Prior to California her only top-10 finish in 14 majors had been her ninth place in the 2015 Women's British Open.

But there are three majors in the next two months of golf — this week's tournament outside Chicago, then the US Women's Open in a fortnight, and the Women's British Open at the start of August — to focus on.

There are six Australians playing at Olympia Fields this week — Lee, Su Oh, Karrie Webb, Katherine Kirk, Sarah Jane Smith and Wendy Doolan.

Ryu will contest her first tournament as the new world No. 1 after her two-shot win last weekend, the South Korean admitted that she is still coming to grips with her first appearance in the top slot. "I actually still cannot believe it,'' she said. "I always dreamed about it but two things came together at the same time. Here I am,  I've finally become No. 1, dreams come true, I'm living the dream.''

Kiwi Lydia Ko continues to struggle by her standards in 2017 but the former world No. 1 said the fact that a big group of players seem to contend on the LPGA Tour was encouraging. "I think we all motivate each other.''

The PGA Championship, worth $US3.5 million, starts late tonight Australian eastern time.