Lee returns for even bigger 2019

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Minjee Lee after winning the Vic Open of 2018

Every time she wraps her bags in Perth and runs to the 13th beach in front of the Vic Open, Minjee Lee has a different hue as a player.

In 2014, when she won the event for the first time, she was only 17 and an amateur, the budding superstar awaiting her denouement. She won with six, as if she wanted to emphasize the point: here was the arrival of something special in the game.

In February 2018, when she won for the second time, it was as a full-flowered tour professional, a multiple winner of the LPGA Tour in remote parts of the world. Again her dominance was striking: she won with five in a strong field without causing a metaphorical sweat.

In 2019 she arrives on the Bellarine Peninsula and has added a number of glowing paragraphs to her curriculum vitae. She comes as the reigning Greg Norman medalist, the first woman to have the honor as the best Australian golfer of the year, for example. "It is probably the biggest prize we can receive," she said. " So It is just a great honor and it justifies all the hard work and the practice that I have done."

She broke the top 10 of the world for the first time and eventually reached the top five, and she really should have a higher profile than she does. Imagine, for a moment, a 22-year-old man had reached those heights? But that is an argument for another day.

Lee will be back to defend her title at the ISPS Handa Vic Open from 7 to 10 February, fresh from a holiday off-season and happy with know that it will be the first time an LPGA Tour event with all the bells and whistles that go with it. Not to mention the fact that the tournament leading to the ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open at The Grange in Adelaide, also an LPGA event, gives players more reasons to travel from Europe, Asia and America to come.

"I did not really know this would happen, but it's okay," Lee said. "The tournament gets more exposure, I think, and the girls will like to play Down Under, and even the idea of ​​having the men and women play together is so different.

"I get to see all the people I grew up in playing golf, quite cool . The location is great, I do not think you can have a better location than that, and of course the fans can walk in. There is no beating, I think that makes the tournament a bit more special and a bit different than what you I think that's a good thing. "

The season 2018 was its turning point year on the biggest tour in the world. She won once – the Volvik championship in Michigan in May, to take her record to four wins in the US Tour – but it was her consistency that her eyebrows rose. She finished in second place on the money list with more than $ US1.5 million and she captured a stunning 13 top-10 finishes and became the second time three times.

In April she reached a playoff in San Francisco with former song Lydia Ko and had to look backwards 30 meters down the fairway while Ko hit one of the shots of the golf year – a trio of wood to get inside a meter of the cup . The Kiwi eagle threw Lee's little bird and gave her the victory.

Lee insisted on pragmatism. "I only tried to confuse myself and if it went my way, I win," she said. "I think everything happens for a reason, in the long run the seconds I have are a great experience for me, there's always something you can learn from your results, I think you can analyze the ways to get better , so I consider it a positive and not a negative.

"She (Lydia) is just an accomplished player, so young but so accomplished, and she knows exactly what she is doing, and at the end of the day I can not really do anything about what she does. things I can check.

"I still made a little bird, it's not like I just gave it away, it was a great experience for me to step into that play-off, so I think I should be proud of myself."

Her coach, Ritchie Smith, thought she could easily win four times before one. In November, for example, she led the final round in Japan, but faded with a 78 out of the top 10, a fact that he is due to illness. "She was a scammer all week," Smith said. "I do not think this happens when she is completely fit."

Smith believes that improved concentration is one of the keys to its future improvement, reflecting the relatively low conversion rate from top 10 to earnings. "We know that her concentration is not great," he said. "It is not fear, she is not afraid to win, but we know her concentration could be better."

Smith believes that Lee has improved every part of her game in 2018, noting its sandsave statistics, the figures for putting from three to five feet , and her chipping results as indicators. Smith and Lee have a list of 25 statistics that they use as KPI & # 39; s; in 2018 she improved 23 of them. "I think that's great," he said. "Over the past two years, her three to five feet has improved from 69 percent (made up) to 86 percent, which is the most important one, I think, and people do not give her the honor of how good she fattens, she just does not make a lot of bogeys. She is now a very good player. & # 39;

Lee believes that her great season was the result of natural maturity, rather than something technical. Four years after her professional career, she has a home she has bought in Dallas, set up by her mother Clara, who travels with her most of her time. "After three years on tour, I know my routines and I just know how to arrange things on the go, everything is a bit better, so I'm a bit more experienced." & # 39;

She is not so often in Texas, but it gives her a sense of being grounded. "It's nice to have that room because you can take a few days off and you do not have the nomadic life to go to a hotel, I can go home to Dallas, relax for a few days, and it's a familiar place instead of a new place every time. & # 39;

Her younger brother Min Woo can join her quickly enough. Like Lee, he is an American junior champion who has been dominant in amateur rides; when he turns professional, she can find herself with a roommate. "Yes I know!" She said. "I told him he might pay rent!"

Smith believes that Lee is only just beginning. He thinks she could win even more in 2019. "She has a pretty good company, it can be a bit better, but she is very professional." & # 39;

Lee expects her season to start on 13th Beach, which means she will probably pass the first tournament in America, so she is fully rested. The clubs went away for a while, but soon enough they will be ready to play it and the cycle will start again. Improvement is the goal, incremental gain.

"It's probably the little things," she said. "It can be focus or the mental side, the psychological side, maybe a bit more consistent in my fitness routine, I mean, I know that technically everything is there, I can keep it consistent and put myself in the head, so I think that it concerns the little things. "

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