By Dane Heverin
European Tour star Min Woo Lee is ready to embrace the pressure of being the top ranked Australian player at a home tournament.
The world no.51 is fresh off a breakout year and will pick up the mantle previously reserved for the likes of Adam Scott at the Australian PGA Championship in January.
The 23-year-old won at the Scottish Open in July and finished in sixth position in the lucrative Race to Dubai standings, and is unphased by the weight of expectation those successes will place upon his shoulders at Royal Queensland.
“I’m sure there’s going to be pressure when I get there but I feel like I’ve proven to myself that I can get through that stage and not be afraid of the challenge,” Lee said from hotel quarantine in Perth.
“I’m looking forward to it. When I was at the Vic Open (which he won in 2020), I felt like I was one of the top players there and could be the one that holds the trophy at the end. A bit of that law of attraction I guess, feeling like I belong there and feeling like I’m at the top.”
It was a feeling that eluded Lee when tournament golf resumed last year without fans lining the fairways as he battled to find external energy to feed off.
“I struggled that second year as a pro with not having fans there,” he said.
“It just seemed like you were playing just a Tuesday afternoon round with your buddies and it didn’t have the championship vibe. It definitely helps with fans on the course.”
Fans will be present at Royal Queensland and the West Australian cannot wait to put on a show for the Australian public once again.
“I like to have fun and it’s going to be good in front of the Aussie crowd,” he said.
“I think a lot of my success came from having fans out there.”
Lee’s positive showings this year cannot be credited only to the return of fans to Europe’s courses.
He is now on the cusp of the top 50 in the world courtesy of the combination of clean hitting and a positive mindset.
“Last week I shot three-under in the last three rounds and I thought I played really badly. But I still came in T16 in the top 60 guys in Europe and I think that just shows that my ball striking has got a lot better,” he said.
“I think I’ve gotten better in every aspect and when the putter behaves I do really well. I’ve gotten a lot more mature and my headspace is a lot better – just surrounding myself with people that want to do well.”
Maturity and a positive attitude will come in handy when he is shaking off any rust at Royal Queensland – a course he has never played before – and not hitting the ball as straight as he would like.
“I saw on Twitter that they’re closing up the fairway and making it a little tighter, I was a bit annoyed at that,” he said with a laugh.
“I was looking forward to the first week back on tour and blasting drives left and right, and be okay. I guess if it’s tighter, it’s probably going to be better for me for the tournaments in Europe.”