‘I wasn’t fancying it’: Min Woo’s STUNNING bunker shot gives rising star chance of history as big guns close in at Aus Open

Min Woo Lee saved the best until the last on Saturday. Now, he has a chance to join some illustrious company in compatriots Greg Chalmers (2011) and Robert Allenby (2005) by taking home the Australian PGA Championship and Australian Open in the same year.

After battling his way through a frustrating round where putts rarely dropped like they have over the past month, Lee found himself in a precarious position in the bunker on 18 in front of the packed gallery that had waited for the 25-year-old to come through.

Locked alongside Patrick Rodgers at 12-under after the USA star’s three-under for the day, Lee quickly made his way to the bunker to survey the damage. There he found his ball on the downslope with the pin by the water that had earlier swallowed up Cameron Smith’s approach from the fairway bunker.

Connor Syme’s caddy said, “Better you than me.” Indeed.

Min Woo Lee plays out of the bunker on the 18th hole during the Australian Open at The Australian Golf Course on December 02, 2023 in Sydney. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Lee then showed balls of steel as he managed to clip the ball astonishingly on the downslope, watched the ball roll a few feet past the hole and had the gallery lose their minds.

With a share of the leaderboard up for grabs alongside Kapan’s Rikuya Hoshino, who Lee played the opening two rounds of the tournament at The Lakes Golf Club and The Australian, the West Australian struck it well and, even before it had dropped, had waved his wand in celebration after his spectacular up-and-down.

“At first, when I looked at it, I was like ‘this is bad’. If I hit an average shot, this is going in the water. But my bunker game is pretty good,” Lee said in his typically confident manner.

“I needed to get my hands pretty flippy out on that bunker. If it lands too close, it’s probably in the water from that hill, so I needed to land it in between the downslope and further up. I landed it a bit too short, but as long as I had a putt [I’d be happy].  

“It wasn’t easy. I wasn’t fancying it when I saw the lie and I was on such a downslope, but I’m me and I’m pretty good at the bunkers. If it was anyone, it would probably be me. It was a 50-50 shot.”

Min Woo Lee acknowledges the crowd after making a Birdie on the 18th green during the Australian Open at The Australian Golf Course on December 02, 2023. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

A fan-favourite, Lee is hoping to ride the momentum into Christmas to cap a phenomenal 2023.

If he wins, he will move one step closer to qualifying for next year’s Olympics.

It’ll also see him join an illustrious list of Australian stars to write themselves into folklore.

“I mean, if I win, I win,” he said.

“Last week was last week and I played great then, so hopefully I can finish it off tomorrow. I know there’s a lot of history to it, but it’s just another tournament. If it goes well, it goes well.”

Birdie finish for #MinWooLee to grab a share of the 54 hole lead at the ISPS Handa #AustralianOpen#DPWorldTour


— EatandSleepGolf (@EatandSleepGolf) December 2, 2023

Lee has a strong list behind him.

Hot on his heels are foreigners Alex Fitzpatrick and Rogers (-12), as well as fellow rising Australian star Lucas Herbert (-11) after his hot back nine saw him finish with a five-under for the day.

Two-time Australian Open champion Matt Jones is well positioned at nine-under alongside Chili’s Joaquin Niemann, while local stars Adam Scott (-8), Marc Leishman (-7) and Cam Smith (-6) are outside chances.

Herbert, who is hunting his first Australian Open after being close on several occasions in the past and regularly featured in the majors, tipped his hat to Lee.

“It definitely fires us up,” he said.

“It’s a good target to chase at the moment, he’s playing as well as anyone in the world. So if you can keep up with him, you’re doing pretty well at the minute.

“There’s probably two sides of Min Woo, the on-course side and the off-course side. I’m not going to keep up with him on the off-course side of things, but on the course, he’s a good sort of a good yardstick to keep an eye on and try and match.”

Lucas Herbert is within hunting distance at the Australian Open after a stunning back nine. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Lee once again captured the attention of the crowds on moving day at The Australian.

Undoubtedly they will follow him around on Sunday, too.

A chance to take people by surprise?

“I don’t play the game for anyone else, I play it for me,” he said.

“I want to prove things for myself rather than anyone in the Aussie public.

“I don’t need to hate on him for playing well because that means I don’t win. There’s not a jealousy thing there. Just because he plays well, doesn’t mean I can’t play well and can’t get good results too.

“I want to play well and beat him when he’s at his best. I don’t want to feel like I beat him but he wasn’t playing that well.  We don’t play the game to beat each other on our off days, we play the game to beat each other when we’re both got everything.

“It’s exciting to watch him play the way he is, and I just want to get my game elevated to a point where like I feel like we can have a good head-to-head battle where we’re both playing well.”

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