Peter Koutroumpis (@pksport)
SOUTHERN PINES, NC – With the sun beaming, complemented with a distinct and strong breeze all day, Minjee Lee claimed the 2022 U.S. Women’s Open at Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club on Sunday, finishing at a championship-record 13-under par (271).
With the win, Lee earned $1,800,000, the largest single prize in the history of women’s golf.
“This is pretty special,” said Lee, now an eight-time LPGA Tour winner.
“This is the one I’ve always wanted to win since I was a little kid, so it just feels pretty amazing to be able to get it done today. I just can’t believe it.”
Win of distinction
Earning her second career major championship, Lee joined Jan Stephenson (1983) and Karrie Webb (2000, 2001) as Australians to win the U.S. Women’s Open.
Following three rounds of play that had the field piling up birdies, Sunday’s conditions challenged all contenders behind Lee to play exceptionally well if they had any chance to pull close.
Unfortunately, they couldn’t.
In fact, only two players finished under par – third-place finisher Hyejin Choi (7) at 1-under par, and 2019 U.S. Women’s Open champion Jeongeun Lee6 (T28, +5) at 2-under par.
All Lee needed to due was play to par to keep second-place finisher Mina Harigae (-9) at a comfortable distance.
Lee’s 13-under par finish had set a 54-hole tournament record and maintained and set that mark to hold as the best-ever finish in the event.
Strong start, solid finish
With a three-stroke lead on Harigae to start the day, Lee quickly took control early and dropped two quick birdies.
Even with bogeys at 5 and 7, Lee knew that she had plenty of room to make those mistakes and quickly move on.
“Even with a three-shot lead I never felt comfortable today. I felt like I still needed to play well. I still needed to hold my ground. That’s pretty much what I did,” Lee said.
“To start aggressively, I think it was the right move, and then after that I had quite a big shot lead, so I was able to just play my game just to finish.”
Lee led by as many as six strokes on the back nine, with birdies at 12 and 15 coming in along with par saves on 11 and 14.
“I had really good saves, up-and-downs from a lot of the places,” she said.
“Then finishing I had a couple birdies and a couple bogeys. I think that was enough to get it done today.”
Too much to do with too little time
Harigae started the day at -10, and after opening with six straight pars, she bogeyed 7 and 11 and managed to birdie the par-5 15th, and eventually posted a 72 and finished four shots back.
“I think that was probably one of the top rounds where I was really nervous. But I think I handled it pretty well for this situation. I’m proud of myself,” said Harigae.
Even while a major championship title looked to be too far to further grasp at, a runner-up finish worth just over $1 million was.
An understandable reason to overcome any anxiety and stay focused to not let the round get away from you.
“I’m not going to lie, my stomach hurt the last couple of holes coming down. I was really stressed out, but I was just focusing on one shot at a time, making solid contact, and hitting good putts.”
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