Minjee Lee – photo Douglas De Felice  Getty Images

Australian Minjee Lee is in a share of second place at the halfway stage of the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples in Florida, following up her opening round of 66 with 68 today but she and her joint second placed golfers, Gaby Lopez and Mina Harigae, find themselves four shots adrift of Frenchwoman Celine Boutier.

A bogey at the last, dropped Lee out of outright second place but she is well placed heading into the weekend in season ending, US$5 million event, restricted to the leading 60 players from the season long Race to the Globe.

Lee described a new feeling and greater self belief since her breakthrough major win at the Amundi Evian Championship earlier this year.

“I think I can just play a little bit more freely,” said Lee. “Like I know now that I have in in me. I’ve been out here seven years, but you still go back to feeling like, Oh, do I really belong here, if you don’t win for a little while.

It’s kind of, you know, not doubt, but just kind of like, Am I going to win again? Just those kind of thoughts.

“So, yeah, no, it’s just like a little silent confidence for me just so I can go out there and play confidently and know that I can play under pressure and play well under pressure.

“I mean, I didn’t probably play as well as I like to in the beginning of the year. Probably just — I didn’t feel like that, but I just felt like I was really close but I wasn’t really — you know, like the results weren’t coming out in the score.

“So that was a little frustrating. I kind of had a good week at Dow. Playing with a partner I think is really different to playing by yourself, so I think that momentum kind of carried on to Evian.

“I saw Min Woo win as well, so I think that was a little bit of a motivation for me as well.”

New Zealand’s Lydia Ko is tied for 13th and 7 shots from the lead, Su Oh is 19th with Hannah Green 29th.

Boutier, the 2019 Vic Open winner at 13th Beach on the Bellarine Peninsula, won again in 2021 when successful at the Shoprite LPGA Classic and today she stormed home in 30 to grab a four shot lead.

Like Lee, Boutier puts her improved showing down to some confidence building performances in recent months along with a change of putter.

“I just change my putter in September, and I feel like since then it’s definitely gotten better,” she said after her round.

“But also a lot of confidence coming from, you know, a great week at the Solheim and then winning in my home country and winning at the ShopRite obviously has been really helpful to get more comfortable out there, especially when you’re in contention.

“I think the big thing for me was just focusing on myself rather than other people. It’s really easy to just compare yourself to other people and just start watching them.

“That’s something that’s been a bit of a struggle for me, especially when I had like big pairings or I was playing with Jin Young Ko or whoever I felt like was a great player, which there are a lot out there.

“And then you just start watching them and forget about your own game. I think it’s been really major for me to just focus on myself. I mean, it’s always a struggle still now, but I try to do it a little bit better.”