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Lee & Ko Chase More History at Lake Merced

Lee holds her 2012 US Junior Trophy aloft (Photo: USGA)
There is reason to believe West Australian Minjee Lee will go close to capturing her 4th LPGA tour title this week at Lake Merced near San Francisco.

Lee has four top tens in seven starts this LPGA season and will tee it up at the LPGA Mediheal Championship over a layout where both she and New Zealander Lydia Ko have been successful; Lee at the 2012 US Junior Championship while Ko won back-to-back LPGA Tour titles at Lake Merced in 2014 and 2015. 

Lee's season has not only been a good one on the LPGA Tour, she also played well in non-LPGA Tour events in Australia, winning the Oates Victorian Open and finishing runner-up to Jiyai Shin at the ActewAGL Canberra Classic.

Off the back of a 7th placing at last week’s event in Los Angeles, however, Lee returns to the scene of her significant triumph in 2012 and appears a good chance to claim her first LPGA title since the Blue Bay LPGA Championship 18 months ago.

She was, at the time of her US Junior victory, only the third Australian to have won a USGA title after Jan Stephenson and Karrie Webb’s US Women’s Open victories.

But in two professional appearances at Lake Merced since her US Junior win, Lee has only managed midfield finishes at the historic California layout. 

The course was originally built in 1922 when designed by Willie Lock before Alister Mackenzie improved the bunkering and green surrounds.

But while Lee is approaching her best, Ko is struggling to regain the sort of form that lifted her to 14 LPGA Tour victories before her 21st birthday.

The very traditional design of Lake Merced perhaps favours players with Australasian backgrounds; its firm fairways and greens typical of so many courses in Australia and New Zealand.

“My ball-striking has been getting better these past few weeks but I have been struggling with my putting which was the aspect of my game that was going really well,” said Ko on the eve of the event. “So I feel like the pieces are there but the hardest thing is to put them altogether.

“It is always nice to come to a course you have played well on previously even though the set-up is different this week.”

It will be an even more special week for Ko if she can rediscover the sort of form that has made her such a phenom. She turned 21 this week and has had several family members and friends turn up for the occasion.

Ko and Lee will be joined in the field by fellow Australasians Sarah Jane Smith, Hannah Green, Su Oh and Rebecca Artis.


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