Min Wow: Lee shows the way at Aus PGA

Min Wow: Lee shows the way at Aus PGA

Self-confessed show-off Min Woo Lee played up to the large galleries that flooded into Royal Queensland on day one to earn a share of the lead at the Fortinet Australian PGA Championship.

Lee, fellow West Australian Jason Scrivener and Sydney’s John Lyras set a new collective course record of six-under 65 to lead a group of six players, including world No.34 Adam Scott, at five-under.

Lyras had the opportunity to take the lead outright with an eagle try from 15 feet at his final hole, the par-5 ninth, a shot even his coach John Serhan missed seeing after leaving early.

“My coach just left, stopped watching before I hit that shot,” said Lyras, who found the green with his 4-wood for his second shot.

“I was a little bit disappointed that he wasn’t there to see it.  But it was a nice number and it fit my eye.”

Tournament drawcard Cameron Smith (68) had four back-nine birdies in a mid-round rescue to be tied for 14th and will again be the focus of huge crowds when he and Scott tee off with Kiwi Ryan Fox at 11am from the first tee on Friday.

Fans were queuing at RQ from 5am on Thursday morning and more than 5,000 poured into the course throughout the day.

With Scott’s name atop the leaderboard as he teed off, it provided the perfect environment for the showman in Lee to flourish.

He hit the best bunker shot of his year to save par at the party hole – the par-3 17th – and followed it up with an approach from 138 metres out of the fairway trap to set up his seventh and final birdie of the day on 18.

Eager kids seeking a handshake, an autograph or even a ball took Lee back to his days in Perth watching the game’s stars up close and he wanted to leave them with treasured memories of their own.

“My attitude the last few months has just been to have fun,” Lee said.

“I love to show off and inspire little kids and do that.

“I think it’s a pretty good attitude the last couple of months and I’ll just keep doing that.”

Playing the latest incarnation of Royal Queensland for the first time this week, Scrivener used a practice round with defending champion and RQ member Jed Morgan as a scouting mission.

It paid off as he picked apart RQ with seven birdies of his own to join Lee at the top of the leaderboard.

Fresh from a three-week break in Perth, Scrivener is yet to notch a DP World Tour win yet says he is comfortable among the names already pushing towards the head of the field.

“I’ve played enough with some big players over the years, so I feel fairly comfortable up there,” said Scrivener, the 2017 NSW Open champion.

“I know that if I just do my own thing and plot my way around, I’ll be up there.

“I had a practice round with Jed (Morgan) the other day, which really helped.

“He’s a local and kind of helped us out, which is really important around here. Local knowledge is pretty valuable.

“I played smart, picked my chances today to be aggressive and then others I was quite conservative.”

For much of day one it appeared as though Queensland’s second-most recent major winner would be the star attraction.

Somewhat lost in the fanfare of Cameron Smith’s homecoming, Scott’s status as Australian golf’s No.1 drawcard slipped slightly before he unleashed seven birdies in a round of five-under 66 and a new course record.

That may have changed hands by day’s end yet Scott’s exalted place within world golf ensures even those with a Claret Jug are wary.

“He’s coming into form, the old fella,” joked Smith after posting three-under 68 alongside him in the first group of the day.

“He might be hard to chase down over the weekend.”

Tapping into the methodology of the RQ members who he used to play junior golf with, Scott wielded the putter with precision both on and off the green.

He one-putted 11 times and took just 25 putts in total to begin his campaign for a third Joe Kirkwood Cup in a manner that will put the young stars on notice.

“I actually asked a couple of mates who I grew up here as juniors with that are still members, generally what do they do around the greens here and the strong consensus was to putt,” Scott said of his strategy to putt from the undulating fringes.

“A simple strategy and it worked pretty effectively today. It’s going to be tricky around the greens. That’s why hitting a lot (of greens) is a good idea.”

Scott’s 66 was matched by fellow Gold Coasters Brad Kennedy and Anthony Quayle along with three-time DP World Tour winner Jeunghun Wang and South Australian Peter Cooke. Another Queenslander, Maverick Antcliff, is in a four-way tie for ninth with China’s Yan Wei Liu, Japan’s Ryo Hisatsune and Frenchman Pierre Pineau.

Friday is Yellow Day at the Fortinet Australian PGA Championship. Fans are encouraged to wear yellow to continue to honour the legacy of Jarrod Lyle and raise funds for Challenge who assist families with kids battling cancer.