Min Woo Lee retains golden touch to lead Australian Open

Conor Purcell best of the Irish, eight shots off the pace at the DP World Tour event

Red-hot Min Woo Lee tapped in for an eagle at the last to take a three-shot lead at the halfway stage of the Australian Open on Friday and remain on course to back up last week’s title at the Australian PGA Championships.

The 25-year-old Australian has been in the form of his life over the last two weeks and had the galleries at The Australian course purring when he crunched a nine-iron out of the pine-needle scrub to within two feet of the pin at the 18th.

The putt was never in doubt and Lee added a seven-under-par 64 to his opening round of 67 at the neighbouring Lakes course to move to 12 under for the tournament, three shots clear of Scot Connor Syme (70) and American Patrick Rodgers (70).

“It’s always nice to make an eagle whenever, but on the last hole, it’s even nicer,” Lee told reporters after signing for six birdies, a bogey and the eagle.


“Sometimes you play good, sometimes you play bad and right now I'm playing good and I'm having fun. It's not many time we get to play out here in Australia and enjoy this type of crowd, so I'm soaking it all in.”

Conor Purcell was the best of the Irish after posting a level-par 71 to be tied 27th on four-under-par. Mark Power fell back to three under after a 73, while Tom McKibbin made the cut on the number at two under.

The novel format of the Australian Open has men and women competing for their respective titles on the same layouts over two courses, although weekend play will be limited to The Australian.

Lee's older sister, double major winner Minjee, was playing in the group behind him on Friday and the whole family was at the course to cheer them on.

Minjee had a less successful day, shooting a three-over 75 to stand nine shots behind the women's tournament leader, South Korea's former world number one Shin Ji-yai.

“It's amazing just walking down the fairways looking back and seeing my sister,” Lee said.

“I don't think she played overly that good today, but just to see her swing it and just be around in the present, it's really cool. We don't really get to hang out as a family.”

Shin shot a four-under 68 at The Australian to finish two shots ahead of reigning champion Ashleigh Buhai of South Africa at the halfway stage of the women's event.

Joint overnight leader Rachel Lee, the 16-year-old amateur who only qualified for the event on Monday, endured a much tougher second round, plummeting down the leaderboard with a seven-over-par 79 to sit one-over heading into the third round.

Former Open champion Cameron Smith played in the same group as Lee and stood eight shots off the pace after carding a three-under 68, a vast improvement on last week when he tearfully missed the cut at the Australian PGA.