The harder it is, the more there is at stake, the better Minjee Lee plays.
That’s why she’s a two-time major champion and hot on the heels of Cameron Smith’s stunning British Open breakthrough, Lee is going for her own third major in France this week.
It’s 12 months since the world No.2 got the “monkey” off her back and collected her maiden major trophy at the Evian Championship, having already been a five-time winner on the LPGA tour without showing her best when it mattered most.
But with a second major under her belt, after icing the field at the US Open in June, Lee heads back to France feeling “hard to beat”, sucking in the good vibes of a brilliant 2022 so far and all the good memories of her unbelievable run to victory in Evian-les-Bains.
Like Smith’s almost unreal back nine at St Andrews in the final round, Lee produced a closing 22 holes that had to be seen to be believed at the Evian Resort Golf Club on the shores of Lake Geneva.
She came from a massive 10 shots behind in the latter stages of her third round, reeling off four straight birdies to finish her Saturday before closing with a staggering seven-under par round of 64 on Sunday, having started her final round seven shots off the lead, to force a playoff with Jeongung Lee, which the Aussie superstar won on the first hole.
Like Smith, Lee is forever understated about her phenomenal capacity to thrive in the biggest moments, which she did again in June when the 26-year-old from Perth won the richest-ever US Open purse by a lazy four shots, a margin reduced only by a “nervous” missed par putt on the 18th hole.
To solidify her standing among the world’s elite, Lee then backed up just three weeks later to finish runner-up at the PGA Championship, finishing one shot back from the winner after firing the second-best finishing round, another example of her capacity to thrive when the pressure is at its greatest.
“I like it when it’s hard. I think I focus a little bit more and a little bit better when it is tougher, and I like the pressure as well,” Lee said.
“To perform under pressure, I think that’s sort of where I do my best. I think that’s why.
“You do have to focus a little bit more on smaller details, so I think that’s where I kind of excel. When I play under pressure, that is where I excel as well.”
No one comes close to the Aussie when it comes to LPGA Tour prizemoney in 2022 as proof positive of her elite standing in the women’s game.
Lee’s $4.8m in earnings, on the back of two wins and three top-five finishes, is $2m more than PGA winner In Gee Chun.
After securing the US Open at Pine Needles in June, Lee said she felt like there was no tournament she couldn’t contend in, leaning on all her experiences across eight years on the tour, a career now bookmarked by her performances in the majors.
“I’m quite confident I can compete on the biggest stage and I feel like right now I can contend in every tournament I play in,” she said.
“In terms of that, I feel like I am in a very confident space right now.”
The confidence elevated a touch after backing that up by running second at the PGA.
“You know, I still want to be humble, stay humble,” she said.
‘But I want to think that I’m hard to beat right now.”
That was only three weeks ago.
Lee hasn’t played since, choosing instead to practise at home in Dallas, having chosen to “gap” her tournaments to be primed for the big ones.
After what has been a banner week for Australians on the international stage, everything suggests Lee is right in the frame to make it another big Sunday in golf.