Not all wins are the same. And looking at a scorecard can only show the numbers that were required to complete each hole. But, there’s a whole backstory behind how each of those numbers came to be. Some that came quite easily, others more difficult.
At first glance, Minjee Lee’s final round 2-under par, 70 at the Cognizant Founders Cup looks like a simple round with a single bogey on the front nine and three birdies on the back to cruise to a two-stroke victory.
But, the deeper story would reveal that Lee never fought harder for a win than she did during that final round.
Not when she won for the first time as a rookie at the Pure Silk Championship after a thunderstorm forced her to wait until Monday to hoist her first trophy on the LPGA Tour.
Nor when she held off a charging Ariya Jutanugarn and Jessica Korda to eke out a one-stroke victory at the Blue Bay LPGA.
Not even when she came from seven strokes back to capture her first major title at the Amundi Evian Championship.
“It was in the final round and in the final group, so I think there was a little bit more pressure that I probably put on myself. Maybe that's what made it a little bit more hard.” Lee said about the Cognizant Founders Cup. “But, I don't remember the last time I worked this hard for a win.”
What Lee did on Sunday at Upper Montclair Country Club in New Jersey was a first for the Aussie, who opened with rounds of 67-63-69 to take a one stroke lead with 18 holes to play. But the game that earned her the 54-hole lead, failed her early on the final day as she missed a number of short putts on the opening stretch and, then, her ball striking left her mid-way through the round. Lee strung together seven consecutive pars and a bogey at the eighth hole to go out in 37 and open the door for a charging Lexi Thompson.
But It was at the par 5, 12th where Lee began to fight back. She two-putted for birdie at the hole which had been friendly to her all week with two eagles and a birdie over the first three days. Lee added another birdie at the par 5, 14th hole to pull clear of Thompson, with whom she had been tied when Thompson picked up shots at the 10th and 12th holes. Lee closed with a birdie at the last and celebrated the hard fought battle she endured en route to capturing her seventh career win on the LPGA Tour.
“After I holed that last putt, I was really happy,” Lee said. “I have been playing really well, so I'm just proud of myself, just that I played four days of really good golf and I was able to fight through this round and come out with a win.”
In a season that, so far, has been defined by parity, Lee becomes the sixth different veteran to win in 2022. The 25-year-old will have a week to savor her victory with the Tour off, but she will return to action the following week for the endurance test known as the Bank of Hope Match Play Presented by MGM Rewards. At the end of the five-day, round-robin, fight to the finish, a champion will be crowned at Shadow Creek. Then, begins the bulk of the schedule’s major season with both the U.S. Women’s Open at Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club and the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Congressional Country Club staged over the next four weeks.
As much as the upcoming month will be defined by the golf that it is played, it will also be a measure of players’ will, stamina and determination to fight through a pressure-packed stretch for the prestige of becoming not just a winner on the LPGA Tour, but also, perhaps, a major champion. The next four weeks will determine not just the best players this season on the LPGA Tour, but also the biggest fighters in the women’s game.