Minjee Lee Sets The U.S. Women's Open Scoring Record
Notes from the Australian's big win. Plus, Pine Needles shines, a noticeably improved telecast, less USGA "branding", the bleak app situation and a U.S. Open Final Qualifying preview.
Minjee Lee faced little threat Sunday en route to a final round 71 and the 2022 U.S. Women’s Open in Southern Pines. The Aussie, World No. 4 and winner of the Founders Cup two weeks ago managed Sunday’s crispier conditions to keep Mina Harigae at bay.
Lee’s four-stroke win and 271 total breaks the U.S. Women’s Open scoring record to pass 272’s posted by In Gee Chun (2015), Juli Inkster (1999) and Annika Sorenstam (1996).
Just two players on Sunday—Hyejin Choi (70) and Jeongeun Lee6 (69)—broke par during a final round where the scoring average finished 2.5 strokes higher than Saturday. Guess the setup team was tired of all those birdies. In fairness, the course firmed up and historic cash was on the line. The top 10 followed by some notes:
1 Minjee Lee, $1,800,000,67-66-67-71-271,-13
2 Mina Harigae, $1,080,000,64-69-70-72-275,-9
3 Hyejin Choi, $685,043,71-64-72-70-277,-7
4 Jin Young Ko, $480,225,69-67-71-71-278,-6
5 Lydia Ko, $399,982,72-69-66-72-279,-5
T6 Anna Nordqvist, $337,198,67-68-72-73-280,-4
T6 Bronte Law, $337,198,69-69-68-74-280,-4
T8 Nelly Korda, $261,195,70-69-70-73-282,-2
T8 Megan Khang, $261,195,71-67-70-74-282,-2
T8 Leona Maguire, $261,195,70-70-68-74-282,-2
Lee joins the list of Blue Chippers to win at Pine Needles: Annika Sorenstam (1996), Karie Webb (2001) and Cristie Kerr (2007).
Lee joins Mickey Wright, JoAnne Gunderson Carner, Hollis Stacy, Amy Alcott, Inbee Park and Ariya Jutanugarn as former U.S. Girls’ Junior and U.S. Women’s Open Champions.
Lee heard from fellow Aussie Webb before the Saturday’s third round: “She said, keep it going, let's go Aussie.”
The victory was Lee’s second major and eighth win on the LPGA Tour.
Lee’s 67 Saturday and 200 total also broke the U.S. Women’s Open 54-hole scoring record.
Lee finished 31st in fairways hit (46/55), 4th in greens in regulation (56/71) and 8th in putting (1.82 putts per GIR)
Saturday’s average: 72.7
Lee’s caddie Jason Gilroyed was on Cristie Kerr’s bag in 2007 when she claimed the title at Pine Needles.
Ingrid Lindblad (a) of LSU (by way of Sweden) finished as low amateur. She posted the lowest-ever score for an amateur in the U.S. Women's Open (65). Lindblad also set new records for the 18, 36 and 54-hole total by an amateur and the second lowest 72-hole mark with her 1-under-par total 283.
Five-time LPGA Tour winner Sophie Gustafson caddied for Lindblad.
Of the 70 players who made the 36-hole cut, 22 were qualifiers.
😬 Minjee Lee on Sunday’s 71: “I was pretty nervous all day, to be fair. I started good; I had two birdies off the bat. It was nice just to have that little buffer. I made two bogeys on the front nine, as well. I didn't hit it that well.” (She hit 13 of 14 fairways and 14 of 18 greens with 28 putts Sunday.)
🤢 Mina Harigae on earning $1.08 million for finishing second: “I'm not going to lie, my stomach hurt the last couple holes coming down [the stretch]. I was really stressed out, but I was really just focusing on one shot at a time, making solid contact, and just hitting good putts.”
🥳 Lydia Ko on the atmosphere at Pine Needles. “This is a huge golfing community. It's actually nice to go to places where people love it, people are excited about women's golf being here, people are excited about golf in general.”
😌 Ingrid Lindblad (a) after tying for 11th: “It's a long week. We don't play a lot of 72-hole tournaments [in college]. Most of them are 54 holes and they're usually 36-18 or 18-18-18. [I’m] not really used to it. I was a little tired going into today.”
👌🏼 Jin Young Ko on Saturday playing partner and low amateur Linblad: “It was very impressive. She was playing with a high level of confidence, and looking at her, I kind of looked at myself when I was an amateur.”
😀 Nelly Korda on her first week back: “It definitely got a lot harder on the greens today, and I just tried to stay really positive and remind myself that this is my first week back after a couple months not touching a club for probably the longest I've ever touched it. I'm just grateful to be out here, honestly. That's what I was reminding myself.”
It’s one thing to strip 11 acres of rough from a sandhills course and another level of hard work to make a four-year-old renovation exude a decades-old patina. But Kyle Franz’s restoration of Donald Ross provided all of the expected benefits and more…
Overall beauty. The transformation made so many straightforward holes look visually enticing and led to more players attempting iffy recovery shots. With no rough lines, more width off the tees and tight-cut Bermuda around greens, the presentation only heightened the impact of the…
Ross greens. Unlike Pinehurst No. 2, where most greens have evolved a bit redundantly into capsized pasta bowls, Pine Needles features more variety in the Ross crowns, fall-offs and green presentations. As Kay Cockerill said Sunday, the Ross greens are just “so stimulating and fun to play”.
Super maintenance. Everything about the presentation elevated the architecture. To get dry, sandy and wire grass areas looking ancient is no easy feat. Poorly designed irrigation or simple overwatering can choke out the sand and leave native areas too thick in the areas where they get the most traffic. Huge credit goes to superintendent David Fruchte, assistant Tom Stier, the Pine Needles crew of 17 and a volunteer crew of 70 (31 are women who got profiled here and received visits during the week from Annika Sorenstam and Mike Whan.)
Natural lakes. Looser edges, meadow grasses and other touches made the lakes more beautiful and wildlife friendly.
Attention to detail. No two bunkers look the same in shape and scale. Native areas seemed to feature the right amount of wire grass to look like they were found while letting balls be located. The fit and detail found at Pine Needles this time felt like going from a Men’s Wearhouse suit to a handmade Italian.
Here are a couple of then/now comparisons, starting with the 16th in 2007 with Christie Kerr teeing off and Sunday with Nelly Korda on the same tee.
The 18th hole scene in 2007 and 2022 as the last groups arrived:
With the USGA’s desire to lock up venues, they only have available U.S. Women’s Open dates in 2032 and 2033. Now that Pinehurst No. 2 is a USGA “anchor site” just down Midland Road, a near-future return to Pine Needles seems unlikely.