In her typically understated way, Minjee Lee said it would be “pretty cool” if she could emulate fellow Australian Cameron Smith and win the British Open at Muirfield this week.
But the significance of another major victory shouldn’t be underplayed because it would not only be the 26-year-old’s third, and second this year following her US Open triumph, it would also elevate her to No.1 in the world.
Lee would be the first Australian women to climb that summit, with legendary Karrie Webb missing the chance to top the rankings that were only introduced in 2006.
As if to dial in the focus on the fight to both win the year’s final major and the top spot on the rankings, Lee will play the opening two rounds with the current world No.1 Jin Young Ko and No.3 Nelly Korda, putting the dual battles in a tight bubble.
Lee’s brother Min Woo, who confirmed on Wednesday that he would be coming home for the Australian PGA at Royal Queensland and was still considering the Open the following week in December, said beyond majors the No.1 ranking had “always been the goal” for his elder sister.
Despite racking up two wins in 2022, including a stunning US Open triumph in June that she backed up by finishing second at the women’s PGA two weeks later, Lee still “flies under the radar” compared with many rivals.
Her younger brother, himself a two-time DP World Tour winner, said that was because Lee was content to “do her thing” and put in the hard work he was continually motivated by, which made her “freaking good”.
“She flies under the radar a little bit, I don’t know if it’s because of her (lack of) social media presence. I enjoy the interaction but she’s more straightforward and just does her thing, that’s why she’s so good,” Min Woo said form Perth where he’s taking a four-week break.
“She has a goal in mind and that is the goal, No.1 in the world, and she’s pretty freaking good.
“She does work really hard, that’s one thing I have known from a very young age and I am still learning from her, it’s very motivating to see.
“People ask what it’s like kind of living in her shadow, but it’s amazing to see someone that you have grown up with do so good against everyone in the world. She’s pretty good.”
Lee declared in the wake of her stunning US Open triumph in June that the “harder it is, the better I play” and tests don’t come much tougher than Muirfield in Scotland.
She hits the Open after only fair performances in last week’s Scottish Open, where Lee finished 18th, which came after coming 43rd in her major defence at the Evian Championship.
But Lee has three top-10 finishes at the British Open and, having last week under her belt, is hoping the work she’s done will help her emulate Smith’s deeds.
“We’ve worked so hard for our goals and our dreams to come true, and I think for Cam, I think it’s been a whole lot of hard work and a lot of long hours into his skills and abilities his game,” she said.
“I think it’s almost the same for everybody, and it’s the same for me, too. I think just a lot of hard work has come together.
“I really love playing at links golf courses. I just really love like the hard conditions that we get and just how much creativity we have to think about around these types of courses. It could be really cool and it would be a great honour to be able to win the British Open.”
Lee headlines a five-strong Australian challenge at Muirfield, with Hannah Green, Steph Kyriacou, Su Oh and Whitney Hillier also teeing up.