Australia

Australian golfer Minjee Lee wins her first major at Evian Championship


Australian golf star Minjee Lee has earned the major championship that her talents have long demanded, lifting the Evian Championship in France with an amazing final round performance.

The 25-year-old from Perth, long considered perhaps the best female player never to win one of the five majors, got rid of that unwanted tag with a fantastic display at Aix-les-Bains which saw her shoot a flawless final round seven-under 64 and then win a sudden death playoff at the first hole.

Coming from a record-equalling seven shots back on Sunday, she caught up with the week’s stand out performer, South Korea’s Jeongeun Lee6 as the pair both finished on an 18-under par total of 266.

“I just played to the best of my ability and it’s really great to win a major. It’s just really amazing,” said Lee, after being doused in bubbly by pal Lydia Ko and then taking a swig of champagne herself on the 18th green to celebrate her triumph.

It had been an amazing final day with Lee, Lee6 and teenage American Yealimi Noh all battling for the title, although the Australian initially had no thoughts of joining Karrie Webb, Jan Stephenson and Hannah Green in the Aussie major winners circle.

Still, she set the pace with her seven birdies and a superb par-saving putt at the 17th to keep her challenge on track.

At the 18th, Lee drove into the trees, but pitched out and got up-and-down for a fourth birdie in five holes, briefly holding a two-shot lead to put all the pressure on her pursuers.

Lee6 had suffered a meltdown to see her overnight five-shot lead over Noh — and seven over Lee — disappear but fought back courageously at the end of her round with three closing birdies.

Yet the Western Australian Lee, who’d played the best golf over the weekend with a 65 on Saturday and 64 on Sunday, was nerveless at the first playoff hole, drilling her six-iron second at the par-five 18th to within three metres of the pin, it proved a glorious tournament winner.

The pressure was then all on Lee6, who caught her second shot thin to find the lake in front of the green, leaving Lee with two putts to take the title as she finished with a closing birdie.

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She lipped out for what would have been a fitting eagle finish but was all smiles as she added her victory to younger brother Min Woo Lee’s win on the men’s European Tour in the Scottish Open a fortnight earlier.

Lee reckoned her family would all be watching back home and she had an emotional message for them.

Previously a five-time winner on the LPGA tour but without a win on the circuit for two years, the world’s former No.1 amateur Lee has been thought of as the next major winner from Australia, following Green’s 2019 US PGA victory.

There was a remarkable serenity about the way she went about her business on Sunday, even as she came into the playoff.

After a perfect drive at the playoff hole, she faced 173 metres to the pin across the water and was determined to go with a five-iron approach.

“I had a bit of adrenaline,” she smiled. “I actually said ‘five iron’ but Gilly (her caddie Jason Gilroyed) said ‘six’ — so I went with the six-iron. Thank you, Gilly!”

AAP


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