Minjee Lee has already produced a remarkably consistent season on the LPGA Tour, but she is by no means done. Heading into this week's LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship at SKY72 Golf & Resort for the start of the Tour's Asian Swing of fall events, the 22-year-old from Perth has the Race to the CME Globe uppermost in her mind, along with several more high tournament finishes.
With just five events left before the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, Lee sits second in the Race to the CME Globe standings, 974 points behind the pace-setting Ariya Jutanugarn.
"Obviously CME is a big target for me," Lee told LPGA.com while taking a short break from putting practice at SKY72. "Just to have a chance to win the CME will be a big goal of mine leading up to the last event. That is my Asia Swing goal. Coming into this week, I think I played pretty solid last week and also leading up to that, so I'm in a good place right now."
Lee represented her country in last week's UL International Crown at Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea, where Team Australia played some impressive golf in the three rounds of four-ball matches before being ousted from the competition in a wild-card playoff, with Thailand and Japan, for the final singles berth.
"I took the week off before UL so I was just getting into the swing of things last week," said Lee. "Obviously I tried my best but I think I had a good prep for this week."
DEVELOPING MATURITY THE KEY TO GREATER CONSISTENCY
Lee, the 2012 U.S. Girls’ Junior Champion who turned professional in September 2014 after leading Australia to victory at the Amateur Team Championship in Japan, is playing her fourth consecutive season on the LPGA Tour and she feels that her amazing consistency this year owes a great deal to her developing maturity as a touring professional.
"Each year, I am learning more ... learning the courses, finding out what I am suited to and how many tournaments is my max or just where to stay - little things like that," she said. "There's a lot of things that go into being a professional golfer. So I think I am just a bit more mature and a little bit more settled and I can be a little bit more focused on my play, more than just the external things."
Lee's results in 2018 have been outstanding. She has recorded 11 top-10s in 22 starts, including a victory at the LPGA Volvik Championship (her fourth career win on the LPGA Tour) and runner-up spots at the LPGA MEDIHEAL Championship and the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open.
Asked whether she had made any noticeable changes in her game, she replied: "Not drastically. There's always things that I'm trying to maintain, like certain positions here and there, but not really. I just think I am a little bit more consistent than last year and every year I am trying to improve in that. Consistency has been a big key for me."
Switching focus from the high energy of team competition in front of massive galleries at last week's UL International Crown to the individual demands of stroke-play at this week's LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship poses no problem at all for Lee.
"This is what we are accustomed to and this is what we have been playing pretty much our whole life so I don't think it's too much different," she said. "Obviously playing in Korea, there's going to be a lot of fans out and about here so in that way it's sort of similar to last week but just playing as a four-ball (at the Crown) is a little bit different."
Lee has bitter-sweet memories of last week. Somewhat bitter after Australia and Japan were both eliminated from the playoff when Thailand's Ariya Jutanugarn chipped in for eagle on the first hole of sudden-death, the par-four 14th, but sweet overall.
"Ariya hit a great shot and it went in," said Lee. "Su (Oh) then had a chance to hole it (to match), but that's just what it is, I guess. It was good either way. Being able to represent my country is such an honor and being able to play alongside Kath (Kirk), Su and Sarah (Jane Smith) was really great.
“We had such a great team bond and it was just really, really fun. Obviously just being able to represent Australia is probably the most special to me and we don't get too many opportunities to do that as a team. It is just a really great format, though they could probably tweak the rules a little bit for the playoff. Overall, though, I think it was a great success."