'Perfect' Lee bags first major crown
Aussie star recovers from 7-stroke deficit
published : 27 Jul 2021 at 04:00
newspaper section: Sports
Evian-Les-Bains: Australian Minjee Lee couldn't hide her delight after coming from seven shots behind to beat South Korea's Lee6 Jeong-Eun in a play-off at the Evian Championship to join the exclusive club of major winners.
"I just can't believe it. I am really happy," admitted the 25-year-old after hitting a six-iron second shot to eight feet to clinch victory with a birdie four at the first extra hole.
"It's a dream come true. I have been waiting for this for so long."
Lee was one of the best female golfers without a major win -- she finished third in both the 2017 ANA Inspirational and last year's Women's British Open.
"I just tried to play my best and it just great and amazing to win a major. I knew I had to play really well to win and I just made a lot of birdie chances," she said.
"I finished really strong and then the play-off was perfect. I had to wait to see if anyone would catch me. I thought someone would so I was pretty chilled before extra time.
"I came into the week feeling good. But I also didn't have too many expectations. I have just called my family back home -- they are cheering but also shedding a few tears.
"So many people have told me that a major was just round the corner, but it's not easy to do."
One of her first messages of congratulations came from seven-time major winner, Karrie Webb.
The legendary former world No.1 won the 2006 Evian title, seven years before it became a major.
Lee's comeback on Sunday equalled the best in women's majors.
Webb was also seven behind when she won the 2006 Kraft Nabisco Championship in a play-off against Lorena Ochoa.
It has been quite a month for the Lees -- brother Min Woo won the Scottish Open on the European Tour.
Lee's final round was a flawless 64 and it saw her come from seven behind Lee6 to secure the extra hole triumph.
She birdied the first, seventh and ninth on the outward half and added tree more in a row from the 14th and another at the 18th.
For Lee6 it was a very strange up and down day.
She struggled with three bogeys in a row from the third and more at the eight and ninth left her one behind American Yealimi Noh at the turn.
She then recovered with a birdie at the 11th and three more at the final three holes made it a brave comeback.
But a second into water at the first extra hole meant a second major to set alongside the 2019 US Women's Open was not to be.
Noh, who turned 20 yesterday, finished a shot outside the play-off in third place after a closing 67.
Round of the day came from Ireland's Leona Maguire.
She shot a record-equalling 61 for joint sixth on 271.
Japan's Ayaka Furue shot a 67 to finish in fourth place on 269, while Thailand's Atthaya Thitikul hit a 65 to round out the top five on 270.
With the result, Atthaya extended her lead at the top of the 2021 Race to Costa del Sol Rankings on the Ladies European Tour.
The Thai sensation now has 1,468.25 points ahead of Finland's Sanna Nuutinen with 1,016.42 points while Australia's Stephanie Kyriacou has 959.36 in third place.
Thai sisters Ariya (74) and Moriya Jutanugarn (68) finished on 277 along with world No.1 Nelly Korda of the US (67).