Min Woo Lee finally wears the crown to match his surging status as Australia’s newest star of world golf after storming to victory at the Fortinet Australian PGA in Brisbane.
A freakish 50m chip bounced beyond a knoll, rolled unerringly and dropped in the cup for eagle mid-round at Royal Queensland Golf Club. In an instant, it summed up where his career is at.
“The ninth (hole) was unbelievable. I probably haven’t screamed louder than that ever and I couldn’t hear myself. That was pretty special. That was probably one of the best shots I’ve ever hit. It was definitely the turning point,” Lee enthused.
The electricity and noise in the crowd was off the scale for one of the most popular young guns in golf worldwide, who seems to be able to dial up a birdie (or better) at will right now.
In his past four events, he’s now won the Australian PGA and Macau Open and shot a staggering 69-under-par along the way.
At Royal Queensland, the 25-year-old closed with a three-under 68 to claim victory by three shots in a tournament that ranks with the upcoming ISPS HANDA Australian Open for prestige in Australia.
Lee (64-66-66-68) reached 20-under-par to earn the privilege of having his name engraved on the Joe Kirkwood Cup beside legends like Greg Norman, Cameron Smith, Adam Scott, Seve Ballesteros, Gary Player, Peter Thomson and Kel Nagle.
This Sunday on the fairways and greens beside the Brisbane River was not just about a coronation for a golfer who will now jump to a career-best world ranking from his current position at No.45.
It was about how he did it. He locked in to produce clutch shots when they mattered most and the ISPS HANDA ambassador still had time to woo the galleries with his brand of fun.
Pre-tournament, 2013 Masters champion Adam Scott had provided the most insightful line to broadcasters Fox Sports: “He rises to play at his best at the biggest tournaments. That’s impressive.”
There was no greater show of that on course than when Lee eagled the 525m par five ninth. His chip-in came after a flared drive had left him right of the trees and with a blocked view of the pin. He ripped a low-drawing four iron for his second shot from a patchy lie to set up the chip from well right of the green.
The crowd erupted with shrieks and astonished looks. One booming voice still managed to pierce the din with a shout of “Let’s Cook” as the ball tracked towards the hole.
It’s a catchcry that Lee fans have embraced to the point one group wore white chef’s hats which the golfer happily autographed after his second round.
Lee went one better on Sunday by pulling on a chef’s hat for the crowd on the par three 17th and leading the revellers on the party hole in a “Viking Thunder Clap”. That one act to connect with supporters of the game won him even more fans. There was no closed, stone-faced look as some golfers might have presented with a hole and a bit still to play as leader.
“It’s No.1 for sure to do it in front of Australia. I’ve been waiting for so long to play really well in Australia and I’m glad I did it this week,” Lee said of his fourth pro tournamant win.
Lee explains the “Let’s Cook” and “Let Him Cook” phrases as simply meaning let him do his thing as he tagged a social media post when top five early in this year’s Open Championship at Royal Liverpool.
Lee’s popularity on social media shows how easily he embraces the fun and entertainment to golf and how more than 600,000 followers on Instagram and TikTok know he does.
The test came at the 17th where he could have been more circumspect.
“I was pretty confident in myself and I think it was time to do it. If I didn’t do anything on 17, I would have felt like I missed out on making it fun,” Lee said.
A crown or a paper chef’s hat? They are one in the same. Golf fans have voted for both.
It wasn’t a last day stroll. Lee hit a poor wedge through the green on the opening hole and took bogey. By the time, Japanese playing partner Rikuya Hoshino had birdied the opening two holes, Lee’s three-shot overnight lead had evaporated.
Lee birdied the par three fourth to get back in the groove, he had the heroics of the ninth and he played a superb chip to set up birdie on the short part four 12th after bogey on the 10th.
Regrouping like that is a quality of the best golfers. Lee senses it too because he’s no longer letting a poor hole compound into something more.
“I wish I could have told myself, you know, three years ago when it was a problem. I can move on quickly now. It’s the confidence I have in my game. A bogey is just a bogey and I think the bounce-back factor has been massive for my game,” Lee added.
He kept the birdie pace on for four rounds. Hoshino was second and third-placed Mark Leishman left himself far too much to do on the weekend even with a closing seven-under 64.
Lee will be one of the headliners when the ISPS HANDA Australian Open begins on Thursday in Sydney where The Lakes and The Australian Golf Clubs are joint hosting.