Minjee gets focus right

Already one of the brightest prospects in women's golf after winning her first LPGA title last year, Minjee Lee (above) was deadly accurate with her clubs yesterday, firing a five-under 67 at the Sentosa Golf Club's Serapong Course to share the first
Already one of the brightest prospects in women's golf after winning her first LPGA title last year, Minjee Lee (above) was deadly accurate with her clubs yesterday, firing a five-under 67 at the Sentosa Golf Club's Serapong Course to share the first-round lead with Candie Kung.ST PHOTOS: LAU FOOK KONG
Park In Bee suffered the disappointment of seeing her incredible bogey-free streak come to an end after 115 holes, but the South Korean opened her HSBC Women's Champions title defence with a solid first round to sit just one shot off the lead.
Park In Bee suffered the disappointment of seeing her incredible bogey-free streak come to an end after 115 holes, but the South Korean opened her HSBC Women's Champions title defence with a solid first round to sit just one shot off the lead.

Aussie teen, seeing things clearer after a visit to an optometrist, takes a share of the lead

The path ahead for Minjee Lee looks decidedly bright and that has nothing to do with her breakout rookie season last year which saw her capture a maiden LPGA Tour title and surpass her mentor Karrie Webb to become Australia's No. 1 women's golfer.

Instead, the 19-year-old rising star can thank a routine visit to the optometrist during the off-season for literally sharpening her focus this year on the fairways.

And the world No. 16 was deadly accurate with her clubs yesterday as she fired a five-under 67 to share the lead in the HSBC Women's Champions with Taiwanese-born American Candie Kung.

Lee, who won the 2011 Singapore Ladies Amateur tournament, has been wearing contact lenses since discovering that her vision needed correcting in December, when she went for a medical screening as part of the preparations for the Rio Olympics.

She explained: "The doctor said it's been deteriorating for two years and my brain was just so used to it.

CLEAR VISION

The doctor said it's been deteriorating for two years and my brain was just so used to it. Now I can see really, really clearly.

MINJEE LEE, on how she found out about her failing eyesight.


BEST ROUND

I'm still a bit rusty from taking a break due to my injury but today's round was my best  this year.

PARK IN BEE, after shooting a four-under 68 in her opening round.

"Now I can see really, really clearly."

One might say the Perth native was even eagle-eyed at the Sentosa Golf Club's Serapong Course as she collected four birdies and rolled in a 30-foot putt for a three on the 478-yard, par-five 12th.

It was a performance that drew praise from Webb, who noted: "Minjee just has that X-factor... She's physically talented and hits the ball very well."

Not to be outdone was the 34-year-old Kung, the only other player in the 63-woman field to eagle the same hole.

It may be eight years since Kung's last victory, but the world No. 43's drilled three-iron shot from 220 yards to six feet for the eagle was testament to the talent that has seen her claim four LPGA titles and earn more than US$6.5 million (S$9.05 million) in career prize money.

With three top-20 finishes from as many starts this campaign, coupled with extra hours logged in the gym, there was growing confidence about ending that winless sequence.

She said: "I think I've gained about 20 yards off the tee. It's from the gym. Not weights, we didn't do that. More flexibility."

Suppleness too might be missing from defending champion Park In Bee's swing, but it is undoubtedly effective and, even with a suspect back, her game remains remarkably resilient.

The South Korean world No. 2 was a stroke adrift of the leaders but, despite a bogey at the 17th - her first dropped shot in Singapore in 115 holes dating back to the third round in 2014, she was still satisfied with her afternoon's work at Serapong.

Tied third alongside Suzann Pettersen, Mika Miyazato and Lee-Anne Pace, Park said: "I'm still a bit rusty from taking a break due to my injury but today's round was my best this year.

"I hit the ball well and putted well."

World No. 1 Lydia Ko, who finished two shots and runner-up to Park last year, was uncharacteristically sloppy off the tee - she missed half the fairways - and on the greens with 31 putts to sign for a 71.

Top-ranked American Lexi Thompson, last week's winner in Thailand, and compatriot and 2013 HSBC winner Stacy Lewis shot the same score.

Ko said: "Didn't have that many birdie opportunities. But I scrambled my way and I still got myself into red figures, which is an important part."

Meanwhile, Singapore's Koh Sock Hwee signed for a 76 and shared tied-56th spot at the US$1.5 million tournament with former world No. 1 Tseng Ya-ni.

HSBC WOMEN'S CHAMPIONS: DAY 2
Singtel TV Ch115 & StarHub Ch209, 11.30am

SEE SPORT

Channelling a decisive edge vital for Miyazato

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 04, 2016, with the headline 'Minjee gets focus right'. Print Edition | Subscribe