Despite being in the final pairing with Sophia Popov, Minjee Lee couldn’t make up ground on the inexperienced leader on Sunday and, in fact, finished alone in third place after closing with 69 at the AIG Women’s Open.
Lee’s time, however, is coming. Consensus among her fellow LPGA Tour players is that her golf swing is one of the top five in the women’s game, if not the best. And her short game has made miles of improvement in recent years.
Case in point was the up-and-down she made Sunday on the par-3 eighth hole, the famed Postage Stamp, which has been the site of so much history at Royal Troon.
But for a bogey at No. 8 on Sunday in 1989, Greg Norman might have won the Open Championship. Instead, the Shark ended up losing to Mark Calcavecchia in a playoff.
Tiger Woods made triple on the eighth in 1997, the year he broke through with his first Masters victory and ushered Tiger-mania into the lexicon. And Bubba Watson, a first-round leader in 2016, made a triple at No. 8 as well.
On Sunday, there were triples and doubles at the Postage Stamp. And there also was one of the most stupendous pars in recent memory.
Lee, three shots behind Popov at the time but having birdied Nos. 5 and 6, tugged a wedge well left of the famed Coffin bunker. The ball came to rest in the rough high on a dune with knee-high wispy grass all around. On the broadcast, five-time Ryder-Cupper Ken Brown, walking with the final group, said, “There’s hardly any way she can keep this ball on the green. The trick here is avoiding a double bogey or worse.”
"One of the best pars I’ve ever seen and perhaps one of the best that’s ever been made here."
A younger Lee likely would have taken on the flag stick and tried to defy the laws of physics and nature. She would have, despite all evidence to the contrary, believed that she and she alone could hole the shot. But now, at 24, Lee sees the game differently. She played a flop shot well left of the flag and onto one of the few flat areas on the tiny green. It was still a terrific shot, but by avoiding any attempts at heroics, she gave herself an 18-footer for par, which she poured right in the center of the hole.
“One of the best pars I’ve ever seen and perhaps one of the best that’s ever been made here,” Brown said.
“Tee shot wasn't brilliant, but the recovery was,” Lee said. “So, I was happy to come out with a par on that hole.”
That sort of understatement has been a trademark of Lee’s demeanor since she arrived on the LPGA Tour out of Australia at age 18. But shots like the ones she played on the Postage Stamp are relatively new. And something worth watching as the rest of the major-championship season unfolds.