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Minjee Lee Captures Second Major Championship

Lee wins U.S. Women's Open, Mina Harigae finishes second

 
Champion Minjee Lee talking to reporters with the Trophy
"This is the one I've always wanted . . . since I was a little kid" © USGA / Darren Carroll

When Minjee Lee woke Sunday morning, she was the solo leader of the U.S. Women’s Open looking to become only the third Australian to win the biggest major championship in women’s golf. At the end of the day, she stood on the 18th green as the newest champion, a bright figure in a neon green shirt radiating against the dark blue backdrop of the grandstands. With putter in hand, she raised them in the air – a moment of triumph, jubilation, and relief. She would share a quick hug of congratulations from her caddy before a moment with playing partner and runner-up Mina Harigae and her caddy. Then several of her friends and colleagues rushed the 18th green, showering her with bottles of water.

The rays of the evening sunshine growing longer and longer, its descension into the western horizon nearly complete. The only thing brighter than the setting sun was the brilliant smile from the champion as she basked in her accomplishment. For Minjee Lee, this was an accomplishment several years in the making. Like many children and adolescents, she would often dream of sinking the putt to win the championship. For Minjee Lee that championship was always to win the U.S. Women’s Open and it was a dream solidified by the time she started playing competitive junior golf.

“I for sure have done it – ‘this is to win the U.S. Open’ like for a little five-footer. I’ve done that plenty of times when I was growing up . . . when I was little, I was like, oh, it’s such a cool trophy. But then when I was growing up playing, like the highlights of Webby (Karrie Webb) winning and Lorena (Ochoa) and a lot of people I looked up to. So, I think that’s maybe what kind of sparked my love.”

 
Minjee Lee raising her arms in the air
The 2022 U.S. Women's Open champion, Minjee Lee striking a triumphant pose on the 72nd hole at Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club © USGA / John Mummert
 

Despite a 3-shot lead over second place Mina Harigae, there was always going to be plenty of room to slip up at a U.S. Women’s Open venue, particularly with the tough green complexes forcing players to find the right landing spots while contending with greens firmer and drier than days previous. Miss the correct landing spot and a player could easily be staring at a bogey or a double bogey. So, it was no small feat that Minjee Lee played solid golf on Sunday, negotiating not only her emotions but also the Pine Needles golf course.

She would finish the round with an even par, 71 – good for a tournament score of -13 under and a 4-shot margin of victory over Harigae. It would become her 8th career win and her second major championship, going alongside her victory at last year’s Amundi Evian Championship. When she turned pro in September 2014, she was already an accomplished amateur player, having won the U.S. Junior Girls championship as well as back to back Australian Amateur Women’s championships (2013 – 2014).

 
The Australian played consistent and steady golf all week, topping the field in categories like Total Strokes Gained and Scrambling. © USGA / Darren Carroll
 

When Australia qualified for the inaugural International Crown event, Minjee Lee became the first and only amateur player to have competed, joining fellow Aussies Karrie Webb, Katherine Kirk, and Lindsey Wright. She was also the World No.1 in the Women’s Amateur Golf rankings from February 2014 thru to September when she turned professional.

Her golf this past week at very tough U.S. Women’s Open was convincing. She did not run away from the field, winning by a big margin. Instead, she was so solid in her play this week that she never looked uncomfortable or out of control on Sunday, despite the enormous pressure of playing with the lead at a major championship, she never looked out of place or that she would falter. Her shots continued to be solid all day long, her putts were stroked methodically and with confidence. It was a performance that demonstrated that Minjee Lee had learned her lessons from years previous as to how to stay in the moment on Sunday and finish the job at hand. It was workmanlike and very professional. She never hit a spectacular shot because she never had to, she was in position for nearly every shot.

“I started good. I had two birdies off the bat. It was nice just to have that little buffer. I made two bogeys on the front nine as well. I didn’t hit it that well. I had really good saves, up-and-downs from a lot of places, and then finishing I had a couple birdies and a couple bogeys. I think that was enough to get it done today.”

On the week, Minjee Lee was the best player in the field and Pine Needles certainly did its job to identify her as the best player this week. She was number one in the field for total Strokes Gained (SG) with a total of +23.41 SG. Her putting performance was excellent as she finished second in the field with a +9.87 SG over the field. She has been among the leaders all season with her approach game and this week she was 7th in the field with +7.91 SG. When she didn’t hit the greens in regulation, her scrambling was sensational as she converted 11 out of 15 (73.33%) for par – easily number one in the field. When it was done and she sunk the putt on the 18th green Sunday, it was mission accomplished.

Minjee Lee is the 3rd woman from Australia to win the USWO. © USGA / Darren Carroll
 

“This is pretty special. This is the one I’ve always wanted to win since I was a little kid, so it just feels pretty amazing to be able to get it done today. I just can’t believe it.”

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In winning, she will have earned herself a 10 year exemption into future U.S. Women’s Opens in addition to winning the largest prize in the history of women’s golf as the winner’s prize was $1.80 Million with a total prize purse of $10.0 Million for the tournament. She also climbed to 3rd in the Rolex Women’s World Golf rankings, only 0.46 points (average) behind Nelly Korda. Jin Young Ko remains comfortably in the top spot.

 

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