Four days after being very much in contention at the Spanish Open, Aussie Min Woo Lee has grabbed a share of the lead in the Estrella Damm N.A Andalucia Masters also in Spain.
Lee, 24, is among five players including England’s David Horsey, Dane Soren Kjeldsen plus Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond and Spaniard Pep Angles who share the lead in the €3m field with five-under 66s on the famed but tight and cork-tree lined Valderrama course in the sun-splashed Spanish Costa del Sol.
The Valderrama course played host from 1988 to 2008 to the European Tour season-ending Volvo Masters ahead of the introduction a year later of the Race to Dubai. Of note is that the now 47-year-old Kjeldsen captured the last edition of the Volvo Masters.
Starting from the 10th, Lee kick-started his round in the bright but breezy conditions in superb manner with a birdie at the 12th or his third hole. The double DP World Tour champion brilliantly capped his round landing a 176-yard second shot at the par-5 17th or his eighth hole to some 50-feet left of the flag and holing the eagle ‘3’ third shot.
Lee, who finished third last week behind Jon Rahm in the Spanish capital, made the turn with back-to-back birdies at his 10th and 11th hole but gave back the shots with back-to-back bogeys at his 12th and 13th. The Fremantle attached golfer then knuckled down to hole a four-footer for birdie at the 17th hole of this round ahead of draining an 11-footer at the ninth.
“Last week I didn’t have the focus on the last six holes, but looking at the positives I played wonderful for the first 60 something holes,” said the World No. 62 ranked Lee.
“I also love this course, I love the vibes here so I just want to keep it going. I feel good about this course. The toughness of it suits me. I have a really good short game around here, something about the grass I guess. Made up and down a few times. It frees up my iron play and long game. Some drives are pretty tough into the wind but if you can get it somewhere in play you can make birdies.”
Bizarrely, a week ago Lee was striving to become the first Australian born golfer since 1990 to capture the Spanish Open title and now a week later is looking to become the first Australian since 1991 to win at Valderrama. What is more surprising is that the last Australian to win a Spanish Open and also win at Valderrama was Rodger Davis.
Lee arrived in the sun-splashed south-east corner of Spain lying 32nd on the Race to Dubai money list and is already projected to move to 30th with what would be a third DP World Tour triumph.
But the brother of two-time women’s major winning Minjee is not about to get carried away with thoughts of the DP World Tour Championship
“I’m not really thinking about making the DP World Tour Championship as I’m going to play the Aussie Tour events early in next season,” he said.
“If I have time off, I have time off (that week). Maybe I should think that way more and I’ll play better. Low expectations – if I get there I get there, if not, it’s not the end of the world. I have another year of status. I didn’t give all my time to the DP World Tour this year, I played over in America, so next year I’ll prioritise Europe a bit more.”