Minjee Lee makes her long-awaited return to major championship golf this week at the Chevron Championship in Houston, Texas.
Australia’s Lee, the world No.5 and already a dual major champion, has had a remarkably quiet start to 2023 by her lofty standards.
The Perth superstar has played just two tournaments for the calendar year, for a 67th at the Honda LPGA event in Thailand at the end of February and tied 52nd in the HSBC Women’s World Championship in Singapore in March.
In short, she will have every reason to be rusty this week in Texas. She has not played a tournament round since March 4.
It’s an unusual preparation but reflective of the fact that there were some putting issues in her game in Asia and that it’s a very long year. This is the first of five women’s majors for 2023, a year in which she will defend the US Women’s Open at Pebble Beach.
Lee has a stated goal of becoming the world’s No.1 player and while she has threatened to achieve that target, she has not quite made it yet.
She was No.2 in the world after she won in Los Angeles in April, 2019, but her form trailed off after that. And then when she won her first major – the 2021 Evian Championship – she also climbed back to No.2.
For much of 2022, her best season yet on tour, she was a win away from climbing to No.1 in the world but never quite managed it.
So, this week shapes as an important tournament for the Royal Fremantle product as she works to bring her game back into its normal fettle.
There are six Australians in this week’s $US5.1 million tournament which is being played at The Club at Carlton Woods, a Jack Nicklaus-designed course that is hosting the Chevron for the first time.
In fact, it is the first time in more than 50 years that the tournament has been played away from Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California, the club which boasts Poppie’s Pond and which created the legend of the winners’ jump into the water beside the 18th green.
Lee, for one, will appreciate that it is not so far from her American home base in Dallas.
The other Australians are Hannah Green, Sarah Kemp, Steph Kyriacou, Karis Davidson and this week’s Lotte Championship winner, Grace Kim, who will tee it up in her first major as a full LPGA Tour member (although she did qualify for the US Women’s Open last year, finishing tied 63rd).
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The Club at Carlton Woods is 40 minutes north of downtown Houston, Texas, and was opened in 2001 within a gated community.
There are two courses, and this week’s Chevron Championship is being played on the par-72 Nicklaus course which was the original course, augmented by a Tom Fazio-designed course in 2005.
$US 5.1 million
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Lydia Ko, world No.1
Nelly Korda, world No.2
Jin Young Ko, world No.3
Minjee Lee, world No.5
Fox Sports and Kayo Sports
Friday (AEST) 8-10am
Saturday 8-10 am