Date: April 29, 2019
Author: Martin Blake

Minjee Lee wins LA, jumps to world No. 2

Australia’s Minjee Lee has won her fifth tournament on the world’s best women’s tour, the LPGA, leading all the way through the final round of the LA Open at Wilshire Country Club.

The 22-year-old from Perth, already ranked No. 4 in the world and the 2018 Greg Norman medallist, will continue her push toward the No. 1 world ranking after closing with a 68 for a four-shot victory. 

She shot four rounds in the 60s, making a clinching, mid-range birdie at the 72nd hole to pick up $US225,000 in prizemoney. Importantly closed it out nicely, having had a string of second-place finishes over the past 12 months.

The Australian has climbed to No. 2 in the world after the win.

Lee has had four previous wins on the LPGA Tour – the 2015 Kingsmill Championship, the 2016 Loe Championship, the 2016 Blue Bay Championship and the 2018  LPGA Volvik Championship. She has also won two ISPS Handa Vic Opens, including as an amateur in 2014.

The Western Australian began the final round with a one-shot lead over Nanna Koerstz Madsen of Denmark.

But Koerstz Madsen fell away quickly, and by the time Lee made birdie at the short par-three seventh and a front nine of 32, she was leading by five shots.

But it was not that easy. South Korea’s Sei Young Kim jumped out of the pack with consecutive birdies at the 13th, 14th and the 15th, and then Lee made her only bad mistake of the day – flaring her second shot at the par-four 11th into the greenside trap and leaving her first bunker shot in the sand, giving back a shot.

Suddenly the lead was back to two shots but Kim missed the 18th green to the right and made bogey, pushing the lead back to three as Lee came up the 17th fairway. The Aussie hit pure shots coming in, just missing her birdie putt at the 17th and then rolling in a four-metre birdie at the 18th to finish it.

“I had a couple of birdie opportunities coming in so I didn’t get rattled or anything,’’ she said. “The first half of the year I’ve had, I’ve been hitting it solid and playing solid. I felt like it was close and I feel pretty good with this one.’’

Lee acknowledged the role played by Karrie Webb in her life and her career, having been a Webb Scholarship player in the past. “She (Webb) was pretty much my first role model, coming from Australia,’’ she said. “I mean, she’s one of the best. It’s really special for her, being around in my life. I got the pleasure to play on tour with her at the same time and that’s pretty special for me.’’