A corner of East Lothian may forever belong to a family from Western Australia. Should Minjee Lee prevail at the Women’s Open – and a second round of 70 leaves her in fine position to do precisely that – she will have shown the local speciality already displayed by her brother.
Min Woo Lee’s win at the Scottish Open last July was the biggest of his career. It is hardly unfair to suggest the 24-year-old has been firmly upstaged in sporting context by his older sister. The quirk here is that Minjee Lee is in hot pursuit of a third major – and second of 2022 – at Muirfield, literally over the wall from the Renaissance Club where Min Woo Lee emerged from a playoff.
Minjee Lee offered only that a family double in the same postcode and more than 9,000 miles from home would be “pretty cool” before a ball was struck in the Women’s Open. A four under par total at the halfway point has only intensified strong attention around her, including in her native country.
Lee eased to victory the US Open in June and would almost certainly become Australia’s first female world No 1 with a win at Muirfield. At the halfway mark she is four shots off the leader, South Korea’s Chun In-gee, and shielding herself expertly from the noise.
“I try not to think too much about that other stuff,” Lee said. “I’m still the same person. I hit a little white golf ball around a field. That’s always been my mindset and whatever comes with it, I’m going to embrace it and be the best person that I can be.” And the best golfer, clearly. Lee’s second round included two birdies and one bogey. She rued missed chances on the greens. “I played really smart out there,” she added. “I couldn’t quite capitalise on my birdie opportunities so hopefully they will all drop tomorrow.
“The course is really set up quite fair and the design of the course is actually rewarding when you play to the safe side. I definitely think it’s a very fair, challenging but fun course.” Indeed, Muirfield has generally been deemed a huge success by competitors.
Martin Slumbers, the R&A’s chief executive, has placed emphasis on big-time sport requiring big-time audiences and big-time venues. It also needs big-time leaderboards. Job done on that front: Chun, the Women’s PGA winner this year, leads with seven-time major winner Inbee Park two shots back. Madelene Sagström, last year’s runner-up, and South Africa’s Ashleigh Buhai are sandwiched between them in a tie for seconds.
New Zealand’s Lydia Ko is also in the mix at one under par. Ko added a 70 to day one’s 71 despite a messy double bogey at the 18th. Charley Hull, a renowned pessimist when it comes to links golf, has matched Ko’s aggregate. Ireland’s Leona Maguire, chasing the first of what many believe will be multiple major successes, is two under after a 69. She had aspirations of an even better Friday after an eagle at the par five 5th.
“I birdied 14 and 15 which are probably two of the hardest holes out there, so that was a nice boost heading into those last few holes,” Maguire said. “I was three under for the last five so that’s really good momentum heading into the weekend.
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“I would have liked to have got to four or five under but you have to take your chances where they come. I didn’t take advantage of some holes and then I birdied two of the hardest holes. That’s links golf and you just really have to be patient. I feel like I did that today. It would have been easy to kind of get frustrated and finish a couple over. I dug in for those last few which was nice. I hit it in a few of those bunkers, which are really penal.” Louise Duncan, the young Scot making just her second professional start, slipped back to minus two and alongside Maguire after a 73.
Those to miss the cut included Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist, who won this major in dramatic fashion at Carnoustie 12 months ago, Catriona Matthew and Lexi Thompson. The world No1, Ko Jin-young also crashed out at five over par. A disastrous second round of 81 for Laura Davies comprehensively ended her prospects of lasting more than 36 holes. Nelly Korda squeezed in for the weekend at plus two after a disappointing 74.