Date: April 21, 2016
Author: Martin Blake

Minjee returns to familiar ground

Minjee Lee returns to the scene of her 2012 US Junior Championship victory this week, this time as the world No.12 with the potential to soar higher.

Lee, 19, Australia's top-ranked female player, is teeing it up in the LPGA Tour's Swinging Skirts Championship at Lake Merced Golf Club in San Francisco.

She is coming off her second LPGA victory last weekend in Hawaii, a win that took her to a career-high ranking, just outside the top 10.

Perth's Lee ignited her amateur career with her win over America's Alison Lee here four years ago, and has found the course "exactly as I remembered it''.

All four semi-finalists from the US junior title — both Lees, Brooke Henderson and Ariya Jutanugarn — are here as top-ranked professionals this week.

"I don't even remember,'' said Minjee Lee when asked how her game had changed since 2012. " It was like a long time ago. It was 2012, so five years. I feel like I was much less mature, obviously, five years ago. Maybe I'm hitting it longer. I can't quite remember how the course was set up, so I would say not as hard. No, it was really fun that week. Yes, it was like my first time in America after all my junior years in Australia.''

Lee is in white hot form in her second year on tour. "Definitely I feel like I'm striking the ball pretty well. If I can get my putter going like I did last week, then I think I'll have a chance,'' she said.

"I love every hole on this golf course. The par-threes are all tricky. I think if you do well on the par-threes you're going to be all right. Then there are a couple of reachable par-fives. So you can definitely take advantage of those if you're a long ball-striker.''

There are five Australians in the field — Lee, Su Oh, Sarah Jane Smith, Sarah Kemp and Katherine Kirk. World No.1 Lydia Ko is the defending champion.

Meanwhile on the PGA Tour, former Australian junior champion Ryan Ruffels has another start in his quest to earn full playing rights at the Valero Texas Open. Ruffels, the 17-year-old Melburnian, is having the fifth of seven guaranteed starts this season.

He needs to earn as much money or Fedex Cup points as the 125th-ranked tour member to earn a card for next year.