Minjee Lee has finished second at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship by just one stroke but it took an extraordinary feat to beat her.
With aces in each of her first two rounds at the sixth and 11th holes respectively, Japan’s Nasa Hataoka (67) became just the fifth player in LPGA Tour history to record two hole-in-ones at the same event and the first since 2016.
Those two perfect shots saw her begin the final round level with Lee at 12-under par and she applied the pressure early with birdies at three of her first four holes to edge two strokes clear.
Lee’s bogey at the par-4 fifth saw her fall another shot back and when she bogeyed the par-4 ninth was four shots adrift heading into the back nine.
A birdie at the par-4 10th reduced the deficit again and with Hataoka unable to pull away as the inward nine continued Lee remained within reach.
A birdie at the par-5 14th and a brilliant shot into the par-3 17th enabled the 25-year-old to draw within one with only the par-5 18th left to play.
Unfortunately for Aussie golf fans Lee’s birdie putt from 15 feet shaved the edged of the cup, finishing level with Korean Eun-Hee Ji in a share of second at 15-under par with a closing round of three-under 68.
“I think playing under pressure is where I belong, this is where I excel,” said Lee, who began the week ranked No.9 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings.
“Hopefully I have a lot more times that it can bring the best out of me.
“There are so many more positives than negatives out of this week.
“I missed a couple birdie opportunities today that I probably should have made.
“All day I was thinking about the missed putts I had and going into the back nine I just wanted to get to 16-under. I got to 15-under, so I was close but in this situation I still did play well.
“Maybe next time I’ll get on the 18th green in two.”
Su Oh followed up a second round of five-under 66 with a four-under 67 to climb into a share of 25th, Sarah Jane Smith matched Oh’s round of four-under 67 to finish tied for 34th while first round leader Katherine Kirk faded to a six-under par total and a share of 42nd.
Elsewhere this week Anthony Quayle recorded his best finish on the Japan Golf Tour in almost two years at the Panasonic Open, finishing tied for 11th to lead the Australian contingent.
Set up by a brilliant round of 64 in the second round, Quayle closed with a round of one-under 71 to finish just outside the top-10, his fourth top-20 result in his past six starts.
Novocastrian Blake Windred moved up three places in the Challenge Tour’s Road to Mallorca points race with a top-30 finish at the Open de Portugal and Stephen Leaney was the top Aussie at the PGA Tour Champions Pure Insurance Championship, finishing tied for 13th at Pebble Beach.
Meanwhile, two Aussies tasted both sides of the Ryder Cup. Caddie Scott McGuiness on the victorious team working for American rookie Scottie Scheffler and Shay Knight on the bag for Europe’s Viktor Hovland.
Walmart NW Arkansas Championship
T2 Minjee Lee
T25 Su Oh
T34 Sarah Jane Smith
T42 Katherine Kirk
MC Sarah Kemp
Japan Golf Tour
T11 Anthony Quayle
T47 Dylan Perry
T53 Todd Sinnott
T57 Scott Strange
MC David Bransdon
Open de Portugal
T27 Blake Windred
T56 Dimitrios Papadatos
MC Deyen Lawson
Murphy USA El Dorado Shootout
T28 Robyn Choi
T58 Soo Jin Lee
MC Stephanie Na, Julienne Soo, Gabriela Ruffels
PGA Tour Champions
Pure Insurance Championship
T13 Stephen Leaney
T29 Rod Pampling
T34 Stuart Appleby
T38 David McKenzie
T43 John Senden
MC Robert Allenby