Min Woo Lee played his way into the final group at the Players Championship, but it was a hole-out eagle at the par-4 first at TPC Sawgrass that kick-started his round.
Lee fired a 66 on Saturday and despite three-putting for bogey at No.18, he finished at 12 under par and just two shots behind 54-hole leader Scottie Scheffler. Lee, on tournament debut, will play in the final group with world No.2 Scheffler.
The eagle took Lee to eight under par and lurking high on the leaderboard. Lee’s hole-out came from 112 yards which, at the 409-yard hole that is ranked ninth hardest this week, is predictably the only eagle at No. 1 all week thus far. It is also the equal-lowest ever score at TPC Sawgrass’ opening hole.
“I piped my driver down there,” Lee said. “I had 112 in, I had a 55 [degree wedge]. I caught it a little bit on the downslope, and my caddie and I were in between hitting a 50 and 55, and luckily I thinned a nice 55 in there and one-hopped and back-spun in the hole. So it wasn’t a perfect shot but it looked good on TV.”
Lee racked up another three birdies on his front nine, before birdies at No.11 and No.12 put him in the outright lead. He coughed that up in a two-shot swing when Scheffler birdied the 18th to shoot 65 and and post 14 under par.
Lee snuck into the Players Championship via the top 50 on the world rankings, which he did at the Honda Classic recently. Now, he feels like he belongs on the PGA Tour, which he hopes to transition to via winning the Players Championship, securing Special Temporary Membership, or via the top 10 on the season-long rankings on the DP World Tour, where Lee plays.
“I played the majors last year and played really well in them,” Lee said. “I definitely feel like I had the potential to be out here. Obviously guys are playing really good and have such good stretches. But I was just hoping for a week like this and to play really good golf and not too many mistakes. Every golfer is looking for a week like this and hopefully I can play well tomorrow.”
Another Australian is also well in contention. Cam Davis, from Sydney, signed for 67 to sit it third place and only four shots behind Scheffler.
“It’s awesome to get some momentum, awesome to see my name up toward the top of the leaderboard,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to keep pushing tomorrow and keep doing what I’ve been doing and hopefully some more birdies drop.”
Next best of the Australians is Jason Day, whose 70 out him at six under. New Zealand’s Ryan Fox is at four under. The other Australians who made the cut struggled: Aaron Baddeley (three over); and Adam Scott (six over).