Minjee Lee celebrates her major championship breakthrough – photo Ladies European Tour
Perth’s Minjee Lee today became just the 4th Australian female golfer to win a major championship when she overcame a seven shot 54-hole deficit with a final round of 64 to catch and then beat South Korean Jeongeun Lee6 in a playoff to win the Amundi Evian Championship in Evian les Bains in France.
Lee joins Jan Stephenson, Karrie Webb and her fellow West Australian Hannah Green in winning at the elite level but it took something very special to do so, reeling off four birdies in her last five holes to set the mark for Lee6, who, in the group behind, was forced to birdie her final three holes to join the Australian in a playoff.
Lee, who was playing in the second to last group on the final day, had actually caught Lee6 by the time she reached the 10th green, the Korean struggling to an opening nine of 4 over par 39 and, that, after a birdie at her first hole.
American Yealimi Noh, who had started the final day in second place and five shots from the lead, actually took the lead herself when made the turn in 33 to move one ahead of the field but while she continued to play well and finish runner-up, she was unable to match the sheer brilliance of the two Lees.
Lee and Lee6 completed the homeward nines in 32 to finish one ahead of Noh and so it was to a playoff where Minjee Lee prevailed with a two putt birdie at the first extra hole following a brilliant 6 iron approach. Lee6, pressured by the quality of Lee’s shot, found the water and could do no better than bogey.
“I’m speechless,” said the champion. “I’ve been waiting for this for so long. It just feels unreal to have won. Just even in the playoff, and all throughout today, I played really well to get myself in that position, and I’m just really happy.”
Asked if the pressure to win a major given her already significant LPGA Tour career was building, Lee said;
“I mean, yes and no. Like I put a lot of pressure on myself to perform, and I hear so many people say, We really want to you win a major and major is just around the corner.
“It’s easier said than done, and everybody is so good out here. Yeah, it’s just really nice to have a major title under my belt. No, it’s just — you know, I always have high expectations for myself, so maybe in that sense, yes.”
When asked if she had felt the 54 hole deficit might have been too great, Lee responded: “I never really like thought about it when I was playing. I just tried to make as many birdies as I could.
“I think I saw the leaderboard maybe once or twice. Just tried to play to the best of my ability, and it’s really great to win a major. Yeah, it’s just really amazing.”
The victory was Lee’s 6th on the LPGA Tour but her first major title and comes just two weeks after her brother Min Woo Lee’s significant victory at the Scottish Open, also won in a playoff.
Lee earns US$675,000 for the win, her biggest cheque in the game by some margin and she will now head to Tokyo to represent Australia at the Olympics next week.
Of the other Australasians, New Zealand’s Lydia Ko eagled her final hole to finish in a share of 6th place while Sarah Kemp finished 19th and Stephanie Kyriacou 65th.