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Min Woo Lee thrills home crowds with victory at Fortinet Australian PGA Championship

Min Woo Lee thrills home crowds with victory at Fortinet Australian PGA Championship

Min Woo Lee confidently claimed his third DP World Tour title and second on home soil with a three-stroke victory at the Fortinet Australian PGA Championship.

The 25-year-old, who has been out in front since round two, held off an early charge from Rikuya Hoshino that had them tied after two holes but quickly found his stride, almost recording an ace at the fourth and chipping in for eagle at the ninth on his way to a three under 68 at Royal Queensland GC.

Standing up to the pressure of holding the overnight lead, Lee delighted the home crowds and was surrounded by friends and family as he tapped in for a final hole bogey to secure the Joe Kirkwood Cup and finish his week on 20 under par.

"Yeah, unbelievable," said Lee, who follows Nathan Holman (2016), Cam Smith (2018, 19 and 22) and Adam Scott (2019) as the fourth Australian winner of this event since it was first played on the DP World Tour’s Global Schedule in 2016.

"I've always thought I could win, but it took a while to get over the hump, but two wins in the last month or so. Yeah, I'm really proud of my team and myself and yeah, I made it interesting early on and through the middle, but ended up hanging on, so I'm really proud.

"I know Rikuya is a really good player and he kept knocking on the door, but it was the exactly same as my last win, just the playing point. I just kept coming, so I knew I just needed to keep playing well and do my thing and I did. Yeah, I'm really proud of the way I made some up and downs and some putts."

In the end it was a dominant victory for the home favourite, but his round began with an opening mistake that opened the door for Hoshino.

His par putt at the first leaked right to start his day with a bogey, and Hoshino's own birdie at that hole immediately reduced Lee's advantage to just one.

A second birdie in a row for the Japanese star at the second meant Lee’s three-shot overnight advantage had evaporated within half an hour, but the Australian was quick to respond from there.

Two holes later, Lee nearly aced the par four fourth hole, kick-starting a run of gains that included birdies at the sixth and eighth before he chipped in at the turn to a raucous applause from the fans - a shot Lee said was one of the best he's ever hit.

"I think that was probably the best atmosphere shot I've ever hit," he said afterwards.

"I've had a few chip ins, but that one was, at that point it was getting close and I was in a pretty average position off the tee shot after the tee shot, so to chip that in and it was amazing. I wish, I want to see it straight away. I would like to see it. It was one of the best shots I've probably hit."

A dropped shot at the next brought Lee’s advantage back to three, but he then produced a similar chip a few holes later at the par four 12th after finding himself by a tree. Pitched to perfection to the back-right pin, he was able to see in another birdie to regain a four-stroke buffer.

A third bogey of the day at the 13th was followed by another expertly judged shot with his wedge, pitching his third shot from just short of the green on the par-five 14th hole to tap in distance.

With a now comfortable lead, Lee saw in a tester to save par at the 17th party hole and then engaged with a delighted home crowd, donning a chef’s hat to go with his now infamous ‘let him cook’ phrase and leading a thunderclap for a second day in a row.

Somewhat of a procession down the last with his entire family watching on, Lee missed the green with his approach and was unable to get up and down from the sand, but easily tapped in for a final hole bogey for his second success on home soil, following on from his 2020 ISPS HANDA Vic Open triumph.

It's his second victory in a month, having earned his third professional victory at the Macao Open on the Asian Tour in October, and ends a wait of two years and 138 days since his last win at the 2021 Scottish Open on the DP World Tour.

Hoshino parred his way in from the 12th to secure second place and his highest ever position on the DP World Tour, with Australian Marc Leishman one further back thanks to an impressive seven-under 64 on the final day.

Lee and Hoshino's playing partner Curtis Luck finished in solo fourth, with Joaquin Niemann in fifth thanks to an ace at the fourth hole, and two-time champion Adam Scott in seventh.