Min Woo channelling major vibes at Australian PGA

Min Woo channelling major vibes at Australian PGA

Min Woo Lee has shrugged off the jet lag of his 24-hour off-season to arrive at Royal Queensland with high hopes of again contending at the Fortinet Australian PGA Championship.

The benefit of having played the riverside course in tournament conditions in January is one advantage that he wants to make the most of in Thursday’s opening round starting at 11am with Marc Leishman and world No.58 Adrian Meronk.

For now, sleep is more important than the practice range after his 10.30pm arrival into Brisbane from Dubai on Monday night after a strong joint 12th in the DP World Tour Championship.

At 24, the impressive young Western Australian is building all the artillery to win one of Australia’s big tournaments.

This year, he has boldly duelled with Jon Rahm in Spain, finished top 15 on his first visit to Augusta and shown his mettle in the majors to thoroughly prove he deserves his world ranking of No.61.

His European-based golf mates are tossing their clubs into the cupboard and heading on holidays at the end of long seasons. Not Lee. He’s determined to keep the spark strong for two more big weeks at the PGA and the Australian Open on Melbourne’s sandbelt.

“Yeah, I’m tired. It was a 2am flight (out of Dubai) and in at 10.30pm so I didn’t get much sleep, maybe an hour. All good,” Lee said.

“I’m excited to be here and to be playing in Australia again.”

Lee closed with an excellent 68 at St Andrews to finish tied 21st at the Open in July but barely made a news bulletin, such was the fanfare for champion Cameron Smith.

Jousting with Smith, 2013 Masters champion Adam Scott, Marc Leishman, Lucas Herbert, top Kiwi Ryan Fox, Cam Davis, defending champion Jed Morgan and a sprinkling of European stars at RQ is exactly where Lee wants to be.

“It will be nice to get drawn with the big boys,” Lee said.

“Obviously, the crowd was amazing back then (in January) and I think it’s going to be even better this week. It kind of feels like a ‘major’ crowd at the beginning of the season with so many people watching,” Lee said.

Lee finished tied fourth at nine-under-par at the Australian PGA in January when his frustrating putting week on the grainy greens muted his scoring.

“Hopefully I can putt better and hit it the same because the ball striking was probably one of the better ball-striking tournaments I’ve had all year,” Lee said.

The 2021 Scottish Open champion has already played 24 events this year and learnt plenty about the rhythm of a long season in Europe and the US.

He didn’t strike top form immediately and it wasn’t until August that he really hit the accelerator in Spain. He had back-to-back third placings at the Andalucia Masters and Spanish Open.

He played all four rounds with Rahm at the Spanish Open. It was a proper duel. Lee’s run to 18-under with four rounds in the 60s was elite but the Spanish former world No.1 had another gear over the closing nine holes for his closing 62.

“I was kind of looking for this last stretch (of top form) throughout the year. It’s nice for it to come at a really good time and hopefully I can take it into these next two tournaments,” Lee said.

“It’s sort of funny. All the DP World Tour people, my friends, were all done for the year (after Dubai) and having a few drinks. I was like ‘No’. I’ve got to wait a couple of weeks before I chill out. I’m wanting the next two to be good.”

Lee said he’d learnt to be smart with practice and would apply that to this week.

“I’ve taken practice quite lightly throughout the year and that’s something I had to find out,” he added.

“Sometimes over-practicing kind of made my golf a little worse so I just try for a good balance between how much to practice and what to practice,” he said.

“That’s pretty much the key for the next few days… and sleeping.”