Date: May 28, 2018
Author: Mark Hayes

Minjee’s birthday wish a reality

On a day full of numbers, the only important figure was that Minjee Lee finished No.1.

Lee, on her 22nd birthday, won her fourth career LPGA Tour title today, closing with a birdie to seal a one-shot win over a hard-charging I.K. Kim at the Volvik Classic in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

So consistent has the West Australian been this season that she’s now up to fourth on the LPGA’s season-long Race to the CME Globe standings.

The win also lifted the Royal Fremantle member into the world top 10 for the first time, sliding her up seven places in the rankings to reach No.8.

But it wasn’t until the final hole that all the numbers fell into place.

With Kim closing in on Lee’s two-shot third-round advantage, Lee’s run of 38 holes without a bogey came to an end at an inopportune time on the 17th hole, just as Kim birdied to draw level on the par-five closing hole.

Lee, though, wasn’t fazed and crunched a huge drive up the last, leaving her in range for two, if not partially blocked by trees up the right.

She called for her second shot, a 5-iron from 174m, to “get lucky” and it duly obliged to leave her a relatively simple up-and-down for birdie and victory that ended her winless streak at 38 tournaments after winning twice in 2016.

“I didn’t hit a good shot in (to 17) and I tried to two-putt. I hit a good putt, but it went six feet by and I missed the one back,” Lee said.

“I knew then I’d have to birdie the last hole. My drive went pretty far, I didn’t expect it to go that far, … so I had to cut it around the tree and I was lucky not to clip the top end.

“I had a pretty easy chip shot after that.”

Lee began in fine style with three birdies in the first five holes as many in the chasing pack loomed.

But even as the birdies dried up until the par-five 14th, nobody could pass her despite Kim and fellow major champion Stacy Lewis applying the pressure.

Kim made four birdies in five holes to draw square on the 14th, but three-putted the tough 15th green to ease the Aussie’s tension until the final 10 minutes, which included an implosion by Lewis on the 16th that dropped her from title contention.

“I’m really pleased,” Lee said.

“I played solid all week and putted well when I needed to.”

Lee made only three bogeys for the tournament, where she went one better than last year’s runner-up finish.

Remarkably, it’s her sixth top-seven finish of the season already – and that on top of a win and a runner-up finish at 13th Beach and Canberra, respectively, on the ALPG Tour in February.

“I’ve been playing pretty solid golf the whole year … but next week is going to be a totally different week,” she said about the upcoming US Women’s Open.

But she then added, ominously for the field: “I know I’m striking it well and putting it well.” 

Capping a great week for the Australian women, Victorian Su Oh closed with a birdie of her own to card a fine 68 and grab a share of fourth at 13 under, just three adrift of her long-time mate.

It was Oh’s best result of the season and continued her resurgence with four tidy finishes in succession after a change in equipment.

Queenslander Sarah Jane Smith closed with a 73 to finish T32 at six under, while Perth’s Hannah Green closed with a 74 to finish T63 at even par.