Perth’s Min Woo Lee recorded an exceptional two-shot wire-to-wire victory in the $US1 million SJM Macao Open today, for his first title in two years.
The tournament’s marquee player, ranked 46th in the world, hit crushing drives and holed putt after putt to card an eight-under-par 63 for an astonishing four-round aggregate of 30-under – a new tournament record and two short of the Asian Tour record, although preferred lies were in play for the first two days.
Thailand’s Poom Saksansin also fired a 63 – like Lee, bogey-free – and finished second after a fascinating final-day duel between the big-hitting West Australian and the tenacious little Thai golfer, hoping to replicate one of his giant-killing acts of the past.
Lee started the day with a two-shot lead over Poom and the margin was the same at the turn after both players pulled away from the field playing brilliant golf with four birdies apiece.
The turning point proved to be the par-5 13th, where Lee opened up a four-stroke cushion after he made an eagle, for the second day in row, against Poom’s par.
A wild drive a long way left on the short par-4 15th by Lee gave Poom a glimmer of hope, but his ball stayed away from trouble. He had a clear shot to the green and was able to avert disaster and make a comfortable par.
Predictably Poom refused to submit and made birdies on the next two holes to close the gap the to two before they both made 4s on the par-5 18th.
“I love it,” said 25-year-old Lee, who opened with rounds of 62, 64 and 65.
“As soon as the week started I had a couple of days rest because of the typhoon, and the course was looking amazing from the beginning. Obviously, it was pretty bad for a couple of days there, so it was props to the green keepers for keeping the course in such good condition.
“And yeah, I played wonderful, really flawless golf for a lot of the holes, there was only a few holes that I could really look back on. But yeah, I’m really proud of the way I handled myself.”
Lee’s score smashed the event’s previous lowest winning total of 20-under, set by fellow Australian Scott Hend in 2015 and was just two short of the Asian Tour record, which Thailand’s Chapchai Nirat set at the SAIL Open in 2009, at the Classic Golf & Country Club in India, when he finished 32-under par.
Said Lee, who only had two bogeys all week and earned a cheque for $US180,000: “Poom played unbelievable today – he’s a bad mofo! He never left, he just stayed around. I tried my best and ended up on top, but he was giving it to me for the whole time.”
It is his first victory since claiming the Scottish Open in July 2021 and while he was winning in Macau, his sister and two-time Major winner Minjee Lee tied for 12th in the Buick LPGA Shanghai.
For Poom it was yet another fine performance coming off the back of his success in the Yeangder TPC last month and a joint third placing in last week’s International Series Singapore.
“I don’t know when I’ll be able to putt like this again,” said Poom, whose win at the Yeangder TPC was his first in five years and fourth Asian Tour title.
“I would say that I played very well today but needed a miracle to win. Like I said yesterday I would have to hit at least 10-under to win today. Lee is a very good player. He hits it very far and had a very good game plan. His chipping and putting are awesome. He should have been better than 30-under par.”
The 30-year-old came very close to repeating some of his David verses Goliath experiences in the past such as when he famously beat England’s Paul Casey in the singles at the 2018 EurAsia Cup and got the better of England’s Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson from Sweden on the final day of the Indonesian Masters later that year.
Thailand’s Phachara Khongwatmai closed with a 64 to finish in sole possession of third while Chinese-Taipei’s Lee Chieh-po, in with a 63, and Miguel Tabuena from the Philippines, who shot a 65, tied for fourth.
American Jason Knutzon, the 47-year-old who won this event in 2005 and has not played tournament golf for five years, rolled back the years by closing with a 65 to impressively tie for sixth.
Defending champion Gaganjeet Bhullar from India signed for a 68 to finish equal 17th.