Min Woo Lee continues to cook at Australian Open; holds share of lead

Min Woo Lee continues to cook at Australian Open; holds share of lead

Min Woo Lee might be the most confident player on the planet. He is the hottest player in the world right now, too.

Perhaps that’s why he has been nicknamed “Chef Min Woo,” because he continues to cook with gas wherever he plays.

The 25-year-old Australian, who hits the ball a country mile, won the Australian PGA Championship last weekend and now has his eyes set on capturing the elusive Australian Open title.

“If I win, I win, and last week was last week. I played great then, so hopefully I can finish it off tomorrow,” Lee said.

“I know there’s a lot of history to [the Australian Open], but it’s just another tournament. If it goes well, it goes well.”

Lee hit perhaps the best shot of the 2023 calendar year to close out Friday’s second round in Sydney.

Facing a downhill lie on pine straw, with water to his right, Lee hooked a 9-iron to within three feet on the par-5 18th.

That remarkable shot got him to 12-under par, as he tapped in for an eagle. At that point, he held a three-shot lead.

But Lee struggled a little during Saturday’s round, especially on the par-4 3rd hole, where he made a costly double bogey.

Yet, Lee, true to his character, bounced back with consecutive birdies at the 5th and 6th holes. Just like that, his three-shot lead was intact.

“That was a problem a couple of years ago and last year, and this year’s been pretty good where my bad game has been still okay to compete,” Lee added.

Min Woo Lee, DP World Tour, ISPS HANDA Australian Open

Min Woo Lee celebrates on the 18th green during the third round of the 2023 ISPS HANDA Australian Open.
Photo by Matt King/Getty Images

“I think that’s what has got me to this level now and the level that I can win. That’s what I learned from the best players in the world: you think they don’t have it, and they’re still around there. It’s nice to have that attribute, and hopefully, I can keep doing that; hopefully, tomorrow’s a good day.”

Lee did not have his best stuff following the 6th hole, as he failed to record a birdie until his final hole of the day, the par-5 18th.

Thus, during that stretch, Rikuya Hoshino birdied the 9th and 10th holes and then eagled the par-5 13th to get to 12-under, matching Lee. The 27-year-old from Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan, matched Lee’s birdie on the 18th as well, signing for a 6-under 65 while Lee carded a 1-under 70.

The two are now tied atop the leaderboard at 13-under heading into Sunday’s final round.

But even though Lee did not have his best stuff Saturday, he exuded confidence on the 18th green, raising his putter Tiger Woods-style before his putt even dropped.

Lee’s confidence will go a long way should he continue his swaggering play. And there is no reason to believe that he will not do so.

He ranks 38th in the Official World Golf Rankings, a career high. But on DataGolf, Lee has risen to 18th, an accurate representation of how well he has played over the past few months. He also won the Asian Tour’s Macao Open—at a blistering 30-under par—in October

So if Lee can add the Stonehaven Cup—the trophy given to the winner of the Australian Open—to his resume, then the next big triumph in his career would be a major.

He played in all four majors in 2023, missing the cut in just one: at Augusta National. His best finish this past year came at the U.S. Open, where he tied for fifth.

Undoubtedly, Lee has the game to get the job done, and it looks more like it will be a matter of when, not if, he wins a major championship in the years to come.

Jack Milko is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. You can follow him on Twitter @jack_milko for more golf coverage. Be sure to check out @_PlayingThrough too.

Articoli Correlati

Lascia un commento

Il tuo indirizzo email non sarà pubblicato. I campi obbligatori sono contrassegnati *