Min Woo Lee is the star of the show on the men’s side of the jointly staged Fortinet Australian PGA and WPGA Championships this week at Royal Queensland.
The top player by almost 300 spots according to the world rankings, Lee understandably has a target on his back and plenty of attention from all corners after rising into the top-50 and earning a Masters invitation this April.
But despite what is relatively unfamiliar top billing, the calm and confident West Australian is, outwardly at least, comfortable ahead of the first staging of the Australian PGA since late 2019.
“I feel like at the Vic Open I kind of had that feel of being a high ranked player,” Lee said today when asked of the added pressure. “Hopefully the crowds are going to be awesome and out there and cheering me on, so I think that’s a big advantage, but you know, I’m just going to go out there and play. If I don’t play so well, but hopefully I do, I do play well and get the year rolling.”
The year ahead that he hopes to get off to a rolling start by collecting the Joe Kirkwood Cup is a thrilling one for Lee, beginning with going head-to-head with major champion and sister Minjee for tonight’s Greg Norman Medal before majors and big events around the globe.
However, Lee is clearly focused on the tournament at hand before he heads to the desert next week to start his 2022 DP World Tour campaign. With wide fairways and firm conditions at Royal Queensland perhaps not giving him quite the advantage some observers might believe based on his length.
The redesigned layout in Eagle Farm requires strategy more than sheer strength off the tee, with LPGA Tour player Sarah Kemp today describing it as a “second shot golf course”. A fact that the reigning Scottish Open champion is well aware of.
“It’s a very quirky course. I played nine holes today, nine holes yesterday and some of the greens are really tricky,” Lee said. “It’s not like a course where you can just hit average shots and get away with it, you’ve actually got to hit good shots.
“I’m looking forward to the test. But I mean the fairways are wide, but it’s nearly harder that way because it’s not – there’s nothing to kind of like go into. They’re such big fairways, so I have to, you know, when I get in the zone I’ll be fine, but I’m looking forward to it.”
The other element of the course that will play as a par-71 for the men this week as opposed to its normal member’s 72 that will take some adjustment for Lee and every player not from or based north of the Tweed River is grain.
“It’s not like a course where you can just hit average shots and get away with it, you’ve actually got to hit good shots." - Min Woo Lee.
During a practice round today, Su Oh noted the difficulty of chipping and pitching both into and against the grain of the grass, the LPGA star preferring to use her putter, 3-wood and other options than a high lofted wedge on Tuesday.
Having travelled the world playing the game, the 23-year-old Lee isn’t encountering something he has never experienced before with this element of playing golf in Queensland. But admitted it has taken some time to get used to and will perhaps prove a test during the week.
“I mean on Tour there’s a few grainy places and you’ve got to adapt to wherever you play, so I mean I guess we’ll see,” he said. “But no, it’s pretty grainy out here, some of the spots can get pretty tricky, so hopefully don’t hit it there, but I’ll try to do my best.”
Lee’s best is spectacular, meaning his position as the favourite to take home the title last lifted by Adam Scott at Royal Pines on the Gold Coast is more than understandable.
And despite the constant questions about his sister and a fairly non-existent rivalry between the two, Min Woo continues to take an approach that although it might disappoint the media waiting for a quote about beating Minjee, makes it easier to understand how he is finding that best golf more often than not.
“It is golf at the end of the day and you don’t need to worry about anything or anyone else, except yourself, so yeah, I think I’ve got a lot better at that since in turned pro. Just pretty much take care of yourself. If you do the right thing, do the one percent of it right, hopefully it can add up at the end of the week.”