Min Woo Lee has produced a miracle shot – draining a 50 metre chip for eagle – to surge even further ahead of his rivals in the final round of the Australian PGA.
After missing the green with his approach to the long par-5 ninth hole, Lee found himself scrambling to make par, still 30m from the green with the flagstick another 20m on the opposite side.
But he struck his bump and run shot to perfection, then watched in amazement as the ball trickled across the green and curled into the cup.
The huge gallery around the ninth green erupted in wild celebration as Lee raised his arms in triumph at Royal Queensland.
His miracle eagle took Lee to 21-under-par, giving him a commanding four shot lead over his nearest opponent, his Japanese playing partner Rikuya Hoshino.
With five holes to play, Lee remained four in front, as he closed in on his fourth professional title after previously winning the Vic Open, Scottish Open and Macau Open.
LEE RESPONDS TO FINAL-ROUND PRESSURE
Min Woo Lee has regained control of the Australian PGA championship after his commanding overnight lead disappeared in the blink of an eye.
Lee started his final round at Royal Queensland with a three-stroke lead over the field but his advantage was wiped out in just two holes.
Lee dropped a shot at the get-go when he made a bogey on the opening hole – which he had birdied on each of the three previous days.
His nervous start was then compounded when his playing partner, Japan’s Rikuya Hoshino, made birdie then picked up another at the second hole to join Lee in the lead at 16-under.
Lee regained the outright lead when he birdied the par-3 fourth then went two in front when Hoshino overshot the green at the fifth and was unable to get up and down to save his par.
Lee then made another birdie on the sixth to restore his three shot lead at 18-under.
Scotland’s Conor Syme was in third place at 13-under through seven holes.
THREAT EMERGES TO MIN WOO LEE’S DREAM
Chilean star Joaquin Niemann has sunk the second hole-in-one of this year’s Australian PGA at Royal Queensland.
The LIV golfer, who was playing in the same group as Australian star Marc Leishman, aced the par-three, 160m fourth hole, much to the delight of a host of spectators.
It came just two days after Western Australia’s Curtis Luck achieved a hole-in-one on the par-three, 17th party hole.
Niemann’s ace moved him up the leaderboard to 11-under after starting the day at nine-under.
Early in the final round, leader Min Woo Lee’s three-stroke overnight advantage had been reduced to one shot after four holes by Japan’s Rikuya Hoshino.
MIN WOO LEE IN BOX SEAT ENTERING FINAL ROUND
He may be fairly new to the professional ranks but Min Woo Lee has played enough high-pressure golf tournaments to know nothing is guaranteed as he heads into Sunday’s final round of the Australian PGA.
Holding a three-stroke lead and in great form after reaching 17-under after rounds of 64, 66 and 66, Lee already looks to have one hand on the trophy.
But one of the rising stars of Australian golf knows as well as anyone that it can be a cruel sport where one simple mistake can lead to disaster so he isn’t counting his chickens yet.
“It’s just another day and hopefully I can keep going but I can just control what I can do,” he said.
“If someone goes out there and shoots low, hopefully I’ve finished the week and finished the day happy with the way I like to.”
Although he has ripping up the Royal Queensland course, Lee did get a few reminders how things can go south after he made bogeys at the first two par three holes, the 160m fourth then the 180m eighth.
“I just feel like it was just a couple of moments that I stuffed up, like on eight,” he said.
“I pulled an iron where I can look back and just hit a seven-iron and draw it off the right side and not be in the trees on the left. Stuff like that, I think everything’s been pretty up to par with how I think I’m going and how I have been going. That’s pretty much it. It’s just those little moments.”
Lee says he can’t afford to go into his shell so will continue to attack after getting plenty of rewards, including a near eagle on the 15th.
“I hit a four-iron there. We were in between hitting hybrid onto the green, because it was soft or four-iron and I decided to just hit a low draw because I was pretty confident with the four-iron,” he said.
“I thought I pulled it just a little bit but the way I’m swinging it
right now, the draws aren’t really drawing, they’re just little draws. So it came out perfect and it rolled up and had like a 10-footer. I thought it would be a bit straighter than what it was and just missed it.”
Adam Scott has also vowed to go all out attack after dropping six shots behind Lee when nothing went right for him on the back nine.
“I think I’m just going to have to be a little aggressive at the pins really,” Scott said.
“You can’t really change your strategy off the tee here but you can certainly fire at a few more, seeing where the pins are. Someone’s going to run hot early, so hopefully me.”
Scott will be in the penultimate group, with Lee teeing off alongside Japan’s Rikuya Hoshino (14-under) and Curtis Luck (13-under).
Both from Western Australia, Lee and Luck are close friends from their junior days but have not played together as professionals, let alone in the last group.
“We completely grew up together and played all the time and played all the same events growing up,” Lee said.
“It’s going to be amazing. I haven’t played with Min Woo in probably 10 years, let alone in a
tournament, so I’m super looking forward to it.
“I have been great friends from probably the age of 12 and I’ve known his sister (Minjee Lee) as well. So yeah, that will be amazing.
“He was always a great player, there’s no doubt about it and like a prospect out of WA. I think we all knew that he was going to be good. He’s always been a bit of a stud.”
Originally published as Australia PGA: Rikuya Hoshino on charge in final round, Min Woo Lee responds