The biggest single payday in women’s golf history has gone to an Aussie superstar who could soon be world number one.
Australia’s Minjee Lee added a second major title in 12 months to her trophy cabinet and $2.5m to her bank account in a stunning US Open romp to collect the biggest single payday in women’s golf history.
The world No. 4 proved peerless after taking a three-shot lead into the final round at Pine Needles and her steady hands navigated all nerves and bumps in emphatic fashion to secure a four-shot win in North Carolina over Nina Harigae finishing on 13-under after a closing final-round 71.
To emphasise Lee’s dominance, she finished seven shots ahead of Hye-Jin Choi in third place and her final score was the lowest 72-hole total in US Open history
“I’m speechless, I can’t believe it right now, It’s been my dream since I was a little girl, the one I have always wanted to win,” Lee said.
“With a little bit of nerves, overall I think I did a pretty good job.”
Her victory came less than a year after Lee’s major breakthrough in the Evian Championships in France last August and she joined Australian legends Karrie Webb and Jan Stephenson as Australia’s only other US Women’s Open champions.
Lee also became just the third Australian woman to become a multiple major champion, joining Webb, who won seven, and Stephenson, who won three, in assuming the elite status.
Webb was among those to send Lee a message before the final round and the 26-year-old opened her final round with two birdies in a sign of intent.
A couple of front-nine bogeys followed, but the chasers weren’t coming at Lee, and after turning for home with a four-shot lead, it became six with a birdie on the 12th.
While birdies weren’t plentiful in the run to the clubhouse, Lee was clinical in nailing several crucial par putts having had to scramble from off the green, including at one stage chipping from a dead bush off the back of the 10th green.
A bogey on the 16th was followed by another clutch par putt on the 17th hole that ensured Lee would walk up the 18th hole with a five-shot lead.
The West Australian didn’t end as she would have liked, making bogey on her 72nd hole of the tournament before the celebrations began.
Lee pocketed the monster cheque after the USGA doubled the overall prizemoney from last year’s event and took her 2022 earnings beyond $3.6m.
Already ranked No.1 on the 2022 Race to the CME Globe, Lee now also has the world No.1 ranking in her sights for the first time.
The win also earnt Lee a 10-year exemption into the US Open and a five-year exemption into every other major.
A seven-time winner on the LPGA tour and now twice in 2022 after taking out last month’s Founder’s Cup, Lee went “hard at the gym” in the off-season to add distance off the tee that has made her more of a golfing weapon in 2022.
“I picked up a little bit of length over the past off-season, so it has been helpful for me,” she said.
“I just went hard in the gym over the off-season. Just kind of slowly learned how to hit it a little bit faster and faster, as I was the last couple of years, as well. Just seems to be coming together a bit more this year.”
The only other Aussies to make the cut were fellow major champ Hannah Green, who finished her tournament with a five-over 76 to be in a tie for 28th. Grace Kim finished with a six-over 77 on her last day in a tie for 63rd.