Photograph courtesy of LPGA
West Australian Minjee Lee shot a final round 68 today at Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles to win the HUGEL-AIR PREMIA LA OPEN, the fifth win of her LPGA career.
The 22-year old, in just her fifth year on the LPGA Tour had started the final round with a 1 shot lead over Dane Nanna Koertz Madsen, and it was Lee who was quickly in to stride with birdies at the 2nd and 7th holes to set the tone for the day ahead, as Madsen struggled early to be +4 through 7 holes of her final round.
Just when it looked like Lee was cruising to victory, at one point she held a 5-shot buffer over the rest of the field, a hattrick of birdies from Korean Sei Young Kim from the 13th and a rare bogey from Lee at the 11th hole after finding the greenside bunker, saw the lead reduced to just two shots.
Lee had an opportunity to increase her lead further at the par 5 15th hole after finding the green in two, however an uncharacteristic 3-putt meant that it was still all to play for over the final 4 holes.
However, the 26-year-old Korean was unable to make further inroads into Lee’s lead, and a bogey at the par 3 final hole meant that Lee would head to the 71st hole with a comfortable 3-shot lead.
The Perth youngster made a solid par 4 at the difficult par 4 17th hole, and then finished in style with a birdie at the 18th hole, the only birdie of the day at the demanding par 3. Lee finished at 14-under par with Kim finishing alone in second place at 10-under par.
Lee's West Australian compatriot Hannah Green, who had held a share of the lead after the opening round finished in a tie for 14th place while Katherine Kirk was tied 37th.
Sarah Jane Smith, in her final tournament before taking maternity leave to prepare for the arrival of her first child in June finished in a tie for 41st place.
Lee was clearly delighted and relieved in breaking her 11 month win drought after having been in contention on a number of occasions during that period.
In 2019 Lee had twice finished second at the LPGA events in Singapore and Thailand in February, and was tied for third last week at the LPGA Lotte Championship in Hawaii.
"I've been hitting it pretty solid and playing pretty solid, and I felt like (a win) was close. I feel pretty good with this one," Lee told Golf Channel.
"For the rest of the year I will do my best, have fun and try and get a couple of more wins."
Lee acknowledged the role legendary Australian golfer Karrie Webb has played 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 told Golf Australia.
"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."
With her win, Lee earns 500 points and is projected to move from fourth to second in the Race to the CME Globe with 1,492 points, and the winner’s cheque of US$225,000 takes her earnings in 2019 to US$703,472 and US$5,317,468 in career earnings.
In the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, Lee is projected to move to a career high position of number 2, behind only number-1 ranked Jin Young Ko.
Keep track of news and stories on our website alpg.com.au
Facebook page “Australian Ladies Professional Golf Official”
Twitter page @ALPGTour
Youtube channel “GameOnALPG”