US Open; Australian Minjee Lee second after opening round of $14m event

Prizemoney has doubled at the US Open to $14m and one Aussie star is right in the mix.

Extra work pre-tournament on the greens at Pine Needles helped Australian world No.4 Minjee Lee jump out of the blocks at the US Women‘s Open as she chases the biggest payday in her sport’s history.

Lee opened the tournament in North Carolina with a four-under round of 67, which included seven birdies, to be in a tie for third after American Mina Harigae finished with a late flurry to shoot a seven-under 64 and tie the second-lowest score in US Open history.

Eyeing the record $2.5m winner’s cheque among a total prize pool of $14m, double what it was last year, Lee took confidence from her putting, knowing that the rest of her game was working as well as it had been.

The 26-year-old said her pre-tournament focus on the greens was crucial for success this weekend.

“I think I did a little bit more on the speed of the greens. Did a lot more lag putts. You‘re going to have putts that are long around here,” Lee said.

“Just to get the speed right I think is really important, so I think that’s what I did most of.

“Today I actually putted really well, and usually I hit it better than my putting. But I‘ve been working really hard on all aspects of my game, so I feel like I’m pretty confident just in my ability right now.

“I was just trying to play smart. I feel pretty conservatively I played today.”

Lee was the standout among the five Australians in the field, with fellow major champion Hannah Green next best after opening with a one-under 70. Grace Kim posted a 73 in her first major as a professional, Gabi Ruffels opened with a 74 and Sarah Kemp had a 76.

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