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Lee primed for title defence

Minjee Lee stormed to victory at last year's Lotte Championship with a final round 64. (Photo: Bruce Young)
She might not be getting a lot of votes from the fans but Minjee Lee is in prime position to defend her LOTTE Championship title in Hawaii this week.

A poll on the LPGA players’ page is asking fans who they think will win this week and Lee, who blitzed the field with a final round 64 in 2016, has attracted just two per cent of the vote.

American Michelle Wie is leading the count with 27 per cent followed by World Number Two Ariya Jutanugarn with 24 and ANA Inspiration winner So Yeon Ryu with 17.

But while she may be flying under the radar in this less than scientific poll, Lee’s form suggests a successful title defence is well within reach.

The highest-ranked of the four Australians teeing up this week, Lee comes to Hawaii off a week-long break following an impressive T3 showing at the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration, a fortnight ago.

Lee was just one shot out of the playoff between Lexi Thompson and So Yeon Ryu, an untimely bogey at the par-3 17th on Sunday proving costly.

But there was a lot to like about Lee, whose final round in California featured five birdies in her third sub-70 score of the week.

The Western Australian seems to lift for the biggest events and will be motivated to defend her stunning come-from-behind victory in Hawaii. Lee started the final round five shots off the pace last year but was flawless in compiling a round of 64, the best of the week, to beat In Gee Chun and Katie Burnett by one stroke.

It was an impressive comeback after a disappointing 74 on Saturday looked to have ruined her chances and is a performance she will rightfully look back on with a sense of pride.

It’s been a year of mixed results for Lee who has missed two cuts in her six starts while also posting two T3 results.

On paper she looks the most likely of the Australian quartet with Katherine Kirk and Su Oh having pedestrian starts to the year while Sarah Jane Smith continues to improve after a breakout season in 2016.

Lee aside, only Kirk has a top-10 result at this tournament (T9 in 2009) while Smith’s best finish came last year with a T39 and Oh has played only once for a T47 result.

All the Australians will need to be at their best to contend this week with another strong field assembled for a tournament which is only being played for the seventh time.

The top four players in the world: Lydia Ko, ANA Inspiration winner So Yeon Ryu, Ariya Jutanurgarn and two-time major winner In Gee Chun will all tee it up.

GOLFING WORLD: GOLF LOVE - MINJEE LEE

Rod Morri
About The Author : Rod Morri

Rod is an award-winning golf journalist with more than 20 years experience and has covered everything from major tournaments to junior golf at the local level. Rod began his life in the media as a daily news reporter for News Limited in Sydney.

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