Min Woo Lee isn’t afraid of horrible weather forecast for the weekend rounds at the Open Championship as he chases another hot finish to a major.
Lee posted a 68 on day two at Royal Liverpool to improve three shots to finish two rounds at three under par on Friday. When he finished, Lee was seven shots off the pace when Brian Harman shot a 65 early on Friday to post the lead at 10 under. Tommy Fleetwood is second at five under.
The 24-year-old Lee impressively fought back from early bogeys at Nos. 3 and 4 with a five-under score over the next 14 holes at the seaside Hoylake links.
“Very pleased,” he said after the round. “Pity on the last didn’t make a birdie, but other than that, it’s been a really good day. Slow start. Bogeys on 3 and 4. Made a really nice eagle on 5. I hit a 3-wood to like four feet on the par-5 and knocked it in for eagle and that kind of got things going. Really happy with the way things went.”
Lee, who finished tied fifth at the recent US Open for his first top 10 in a major, said he relished the stage and tough tests. Lee also finished tied sixth at the Players Championship in March.
“I don’t know,” Lee said when asked why he feels comfortable on golf’s biggest stage. “I’m trying to figure that out myself. I don’t know. I guess I lock in a bit more and I just enjoy the challenge. That’s definitely what it is.
“I think I play good on pretty tough courses, and it’s just that par putt or that momentum shot. I love doing that and just keep moving forward. On easier courses if you make a bogey you’re going two steps back, so it’s nice when there’s not too many birdies and you can just grind it out.”
With heavy rain and wind forecast for the final two rounds, Lee said he would embrace the challenge and draw on experience in tough conditions. He cited his win at the 2020 Vic Open, which he won despite horrendous weather, and last week’s windy Scottish Open, an event he won in 2021, as the worst weather he’s played in.
“It’s just the same as any other day,” he said of the forecast. “I’m not going to change the way I do anything. I just go out there and play and just keep my head straight and hopefully hit some good shots.”
Lee also felt the Liverpool crowds were on his side and credited his strong and humorous social media presence for the popularity at Hoylake. On Wednesday, Lee’s team published a video that hyped his preparation for the 151st Open and included an intro from the viral Wealdstone Raider, an English football fan who went viral for a confrontation at a local soccer game.
“The video was two of the guys out on the PGA Tour, they help me out with content,” he said. “They have the ideas, and it’s all credit to them. I’m just making a caption and posting it, and I guess swinging the club. It’s quite nice to have someone with a bit of vision and have a bit of humour, as well, when I make a video, so it’s cool. I’ve always been pretty active on social media, so it’s quite nice to play well and get a following [here at Liverpool], too.”
Tied with Lee was former world No.1 Jason Day, whose 67 took him to three under. “For me personally, I think it’s nice to be able to get in the house,” he said. “T4 right now is great. We’ve got to slowly keep pushing. I think I’ve got a number in my head but I’m not going to say it because typically when I say it I’m terribly wrong. I’m just going to kind of keep pushing towards that number.”
Defending Open champion Cameron Smith was next best of the Australians, whose 72 was iced by a stunning 6-iron from 215 metres on the par-5 18th that settled to tap-in range for eagle and to make the cut by one shot. Smith was two over and the cut fell at three over.
“I hit plenty of good shots today that didn’t get kind of that reward, so it was nice to finish off like that,” he said. “I think given the circumstance, as well, probably an even better shot.” Adam Scott also made the cut but on the number.
Lucas Herbert (five over), Travis Smyth (eight over), Haydn Barron (nine over), David Micheluzzi (10 over), Connor McKinney (11 over) and Harrison Crowe 14 over) all missed the cut.