Kim out to steal Lee’s thunder at star-studded Open

Darren Walton |

Emerging star Grace Kim is threatening to steal Minjee Lee’s thunder and hoist the Australian Open crown in front of her Sydney home fans.

With two wins, a second and two top-eight finishes from her past six events, Lee is a hot favourite to finally break through and snare a maiden national championship after more than a decade of trying.

But after enjoying her own stellar season in America, where she nabbed her maiden LPGA Tour title in Hawaii and finished runner-up to South Korea’s Hae Ran Ryu in rookie-of-the-year honours, Kim is promising to upstage Lee at the co-hosting Lakes and Australian golf clubs.

“I will. I’ll just do it,” the 22-year-old said when asked how she planned on stopping the West Australian juggernaut.

“Everyone’s talented in different ways, so it should be a very good showcase of everyone’s skill this week.”

Grace Kim hoists the trophy after winning the Lotte Championship.
Grace Kim boasts seven more top-20 finishes since winning the LOTTE Championship in April. (AP PHOTO)

Kim, who boasts seven more top-20 finishes since winning the LOTTE Championship in April, said her second placing in the rookie-of-the-year race was a validation of her undoubted talent.

“It was definitely a high point to the end of my year. I was close but no cigar, but that’s OK,” she said.

“It really settled my mind and told me that I belong between all those LPGA players that came out on tour.”

It was a near miss at last year’s Australian Open – when Kim placed fourth, four shots behind South Africa’s Ashleigh Buhai and one ahead of Lee – that propelled the former amateur prodigy’s rapid rise in the pro ranks. 

“It was a really big confidence booster for me. It was an easy transition into the tour this year,” said the world No.76.

In another star-studded field headlined by the fifth-ranked Lee, all top-six finishers from last year, including two-time major winner and former world No.1 Jiyai Shin, her fellow South Korean Jenny Shin and Australia’s 2019 PGA Championship winner Hannah Green, have returned.

Hannah Green pitches out of a bunker during 2022's Australian Open.
Hannah Green is chasing Australian Open glory after finishing third in 2022. (Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS)

Like Lee, Green is playing her first professional tournament in Sydney but remains driven to finally get her hands on the Open trophy.

The Perth ace was third in 2022, two shots behind Buhai, and is making no secret of her desire to at last grasp the Patricia Bridges Bowl.

“It’s the one that we both want on our resume,” Green said.  

“It’s a different kind of pressure playing at home. Probably we put more pressure on ourselves than there is outside pressure.

“All the Australians and the crowd who come out just want to see us play really good golf. 

“Our toughest challenge is probably ourselves, trying to chase that trophy but not get too ahead of ourselves.

“It was quite frustrating last year but I’m excited for Sydney. 

“I’ve heard so many good things about what the conditions are, so I’m looking forward to the weekend and having a lot of competitors trying to win the trophy.”