Minjee Lee surges into share of Women’s US Open lead after third round

Minjee Lee has a share of the lead with one round to play at the US Women's Open.

Minjee Lee has a share of the lead with one round to play at the US Women's Open. Photo: Getty

Minjee Lee is staying cool after closing in on Australian golf history with the round of the week to surge into a share of the third-round lead at the mega-money Women’s US Open in Pennsylvania.

Lee carded a masterful four-under-par 66 at Lancaster Country Club to reel in halfway leader Wichanee Meechai (67) and march ominously towards a second Open title in three years.

Much more than a record $2.4 million ($3.6 million) winner’s cheque will be at stake on Sunday (Monday AEST).

The 2022 champion can join the legendary Karrie Webb with two US Open crowns if she goes on to claim a third career major title outside of Philadelphia.

The 27-year-old can also follow Webb, Jan Stephenson and Peter Thomson as only the fourth Australian to win more than two golf majors.

“Definitely embrace it,” Lee said of the last-group opportunity and pressure.

“You don’t always get to feel these feelings, so just kind of try to embrace the best that you can, adrenaline, a lot of the good stuff.

“It brings a lot of the good stuff, too. I’ve played in a few last groups before. I’m sure I’ll have nerves. US Opens, even that last putt on 18 I was nervous.

“I’m just going to try and stay in the moment. It’s always nice to be in the final group. It means you’re contending.”

The world No.9 will enter the final round in a three-way tie for top spot at five under with Meechai and American Andrea Lee, who posted a 69 to remain in the hunt to parlay her own immense potential into a maiden major.

On pedigree, though, Australia’s Lee will be the favourite to kick on after producing a dazzling stretch on one of golf’s most challenging layouts to card her equal-lowest round at a US Open.

That didn’t seem likely after the Perth ace opened the day with six straight pars as Meechai skipped four shots clear.

But Lee, who revealed she was reading Andre Agassi’s award-winning  autobiography Open for inspiration, ignited her round with a spectacular eagle three at the seventh, where she flushed a six iron to less than two feet and duly tapped in.

An hour later, she only trailed by one after stamping a pinpoint nine iron to three feet on the 11th for birdie and following up with another laser-like approach on the treacherous par-3 12th.

With Meechai dropping her first shot in 15 holes after missing the 10th green, Lee suddenly grabbed a share of the lead.

Her own 22-hole bogey-free run ended on No.13 when she overcooked her approach and failed to get up and down from the back fringe, but Lee bounced with a third back-nine birdie on No.16 to regain a slice of the lead.

The front-running trio hold a two-shot buffer over Hinako Shibuno, who matched Lee’s tournament-low 66.

Fellow Japanese Yuka Saso, the 2021 champion, is a stroke further back in outright fifth.

Although Meechai is hoping for a fairytale first LPGA Tour win from Monday qualifying, Saso may well prove Lee’s biggest threat even from three shots back.

The gifted 22-year-old has struggled with her ball striking for much of the week but is leading the field with putting after draining a seemingly endless number of long-range efforts.

The $US12 million ($18 million) tournament looks a race in five, with no other players under par.

At nine under after a third-round 72, Hannah Green is the next best Australian, tied for 39th some 14 shots off the pace.

Gabriela Ruffels (75) shares 73rd spot at 13 over.


Topics: US Open
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