Words: Release/Paul Prendergast
Photo: Getty Images.
Min Woo Lee became the first winner on the 2024 Race to Dubai as he claimed his third DP World Tour title with an emphatic performance at the Fortinet Australian PGA Championship.
The 25-year-old, who started the day with a three-stroke lead over eventual runner-up Rikuya Hoshino of Japan, carded a final round three-under par 68 at Royal Queensland to win his second professional title on home soil, adding to his 2020 ISPS HANDA Vic Open triumph.
“Unbelievable. I’ve always thought I could win, but it took a while to get over the hump.” Lee said.
“Two wins in the last month or so, I’m really proud of my team and myself. I made it interesting early on and through the middle, but ended up hanging on, so I’m really proud.”
“Rikuya is a really good player and he just kept knocking on the door, but it was exactly the same as my last win (in Macau). My playing partner just kept coming, so I knew I just needed to keep playing well and do my thing and I did. I’m really proud the way I made some up and downs and some putts.”
He recovered from a bogey on the first hole with gains on the fourth, sixth and seventh holes, before sending the home crowd into a frenzy as he pitched in from across the green for eagle on the ninth to lead by four strokes at the turn.
“(On 9) I think that was probably the best atmosphere shot I’ve ever hit. I’ve had a few chip ins, but at that point it was getting close and I was in a pretty average position off the tee shot, after the tee shot, so to chip that in, it was amazing.”
“It was probably one of the best shots I’ve ever hit.”
Lee cancelled out bogeys on the tenth and 14th with two more magical pitch shots that led to birdies on the 12th and 15th holes. He took a four-stroke lead to the final hole after first whipping the crowds into frenzy at the party hole 17th, wearing a paper chef’s hat and gigantic grin after escaping the hole with a par.
A bogey on the last didn’t dampen the celebrations as he signed for a 20-under par total, with the gallant Hoshino matching Lee’s 68 to take second place on 17-under, one stroke ahead of veteran Marc Leishman who finished at 16-under.
Lee’s childhood friend Curtis Luck played well in what was a rare tournament on home shores in recent years, finishing fourth on 15-under, while Chilean Joaquin Niemann signed for a four under 67, which included a hole-in-one at the par-three fourth, to finish in fifth place on 13-under.
The DP World Tour and PGA Tour of Australasia now heads to Sydney for next week’s co-sanctioned Australian Open – alongside the Women’s Australian Open – at The Australian and The Lakes Golf Clubs, where Lee and sister Minjee will each enter their respective campaigns as strong favorites to claim the title.