Minjee Lee unusually at ease as she chases Open glory

Darren Walton |

Minjee Lee is enjoying the family banter and feeling at ease as she once again chases an elusive Australian Open triumph to crown another stellar season.

A week after claiming a record third Greg Norman Medal as Australian golfer of the year, Lee will tee off as a warm favourite to capture the women’s component in the second iteration of what remains the world’s only dual-gender national championship.

The double major champion is among the hottest players on the planet after recording two wins on the LPGA Tour along with finishing second, sixth, eighth and 13th in her past six starts.

Minjee Lee after winning the BMW Ladies Championship in 2023.
Minjee Lee is in hot form, with two wins from her past six starts. (AP PHOTO)

Lee, though, craves winning the Australian Open for the first time.

Having led through three rounds on debut as a 14-year-old and finishing 11th, Lee’s best Open result is a tie for third at Royal Adelaide in 2017.

The world No.1 ranking and a national championship are the two big goals still to elude her, while Lee admits her sibling rivalry with brother Min Woo will be an added driver.

But not quite the motivator that Min Woo, who won the Australian PGA Championship on Sunday, thinks it is for his older sister.

Min Woo reckons Minjee has a knack for swiftly knocking him off his perch, noting how twice she’s won in the week or fortnight after he’s tasted success.

“Maybe it’s a little bit more (pressure) for Min Woo because he’s super-competitive,” Lee said on Tuesday.

“I am competitive but I don’t outwardly say it to him. Inside I want to do better, a little bit better.”

Min Woo Lee (left) and sister Minjee Lee at the 2022 Australian Open.
Min Woo Lee (left) and sister Minjee will compete for family bragging rights at the Australian Open. (Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS)

The world No.5 says having not played the Australian or Lakes courses, which are co-hosting the Open, is also helping her mindset.

“I actually feel quite relaxed this week. I thought I would feel a bit more pressure, like I usually feel coming to an Aussie Open, but I’m not sure what it is,” Lee said.

“It might be that I don’t know the golf courses that well.

“I’ve never been here, but I’m just coming into this new week and getting to know the golf courses and playing two really great tracks that I haven’t been to before.

“The Aussie Open’s always a tough trophy to win and of course we’re going to put added pressure because we want to play really well, especially in front of a home crowd.

“I haven’t played a professional event in Sydney, and I don’t think I played that many amateur events here. So we’ll see.”

Lee, who shared fifth at last year’s Open at the Victoria and Kingston Heath clubs in Melbourne, will play Thursday’s first round at The Lakes alongside Steph Kyriacou and LPGA Tour-bound Gabriela Ruffels.

The feature women’s threesome will tee off immediately after the star men’s group of Min Woo Lee, 2022 British Open champion Cameron Smith and Japan’s Rikuya Hoshino head out at 7.05am AEDT.

Former world No.1 Adam Scott, two-time champion Matt Jones and last year’s winner, European Ryder Cup hero Adrian Meronk, is the feature men’s group playing the first round at the neighbouring Australian layout.

The marquee women’s group of South Africa’s defending champion Ashleigh Buhai, former major winner Hannah Green and fellow 2023 LPGA Tour winner and Sydney local Grace Kim will follow Scott, Jones and Meronk out at midday.