Aussie Min Woo Lee springboarded himself right into the thick of it at the Players Championship after holing his second shot at the first hole Saturday.
The eagle got the two-time DP World Tour winner to eight under and one off the lead after just one hole.
Five hours later and after a 66, Lee is two shots off the lead of Scottie Scheffler at 12 under, but the only purser within three shots of the World No. 2. That’s despite nearly missing the field for the Players two weeks ago.
Lee might not have the most name recognition, so here are five things to know about the 24-year-old.
You probably know his sister
Min Woo is the younger brother of reigning U.S. Women’s champion Minjee Lee.
Their mother, Clara, is also a golf professional, which makes perfect sense when you consider how successful both children are, both ranking in the top 50 in their respective world rankings (Minjee is No. 5 while Min Woo is No. 50).
Minjee has won eight times on the LPGA Tour, including two majors.
She also won the 2012 U.S. Girl’s Junior Amateur. When Min Woo won the 2016 U.S. Boy’s Junior Amateur, the pair became the first siblings ever to both win a junior am title.
When Min Woo played the Masters for the first time last year, Minjee caddied for her little brother in the Par 3 contest.
He’s been successful on the DP World Tour
While Lee is searching for his first PGA Tour win this week, he has found the winner’s circle twice on the DP World Tour. He was victorious at the 2020 ISPS Handa Vic Open in his home country of Australia.
He also prevailed in a playoff against Thomas Detry and Matt Fitzpatrick at the 2021 Abdrn Scottish Open, the year before the event started being co-sanctioned by both the DP World and PGA Tours.
He’s played in four DP World Tour events this season and hasn’t finished outside the top 13, including a runner-up finish at the Abhu Dhabi HSBC Championship. Those finishes have him third in the tour’s Race to Dubai standings.
Power is no issue
The average ball speed on the PGA Tour this season is just under 173 mph. Lee hit 172 mph on the 12th hole Saturday with an iron!
He has clocked 190 mph or faster ball speed 13 times this week and leads the field in driving distance on all tee shots. His 124.64 average clubhead speed in his two events on the PGA Tour this season would rank third for the season if he qualified.
While distance is not the most important trait at TPC Sawgrass, Lee, who checks in at just 6-foot, 165 lbs, should have no issue in keeping up with Scheffler off the tee Sunday.
He just barely made the field this week
Lee isn’t a member of the PGA Tour, but he made his first Tour start of the season last month at the Honda Classic and put together a solid final round of 66 to finish T26.
While Lee entered the week at No. 47 in the world, the finish ended up bumping him down to exactly No. 50, where he still is this week.
Had Lee shot 67 on Sunday and finished T28, he wouldn’t have earned enough points to stay ahead of Lucas Herbert and would have fallen to No. 51. The cutoff for the top 50 in the Official World Rankings to qualify for the Players was after the Honda and he would have had no other way into the field.
“It’s one of the biggest regular season events, and it’s obviously considered the fifth major, and it would have been guttering to come 51st in the ranking and not get in,” Lee said Saturday. “I think it ended up being one-eighth of a shot with the ranking points. Things did favor in my way, and you got to make the most of it.”
A solid finish will be key for his career
While Lee isn’t a PGA Tour member yet, a solo fourth or better Sunday would earn him Special Temporary Membership for the remainder of the season.
To earn Special Temporary status, a player must earn the equivalent number of non-member FedEx Cup points as last season’s 150th-place finisher in the standings. Special Temporary members are able to play on unlimited sponsor exemptions. If they secure enough FedEx Cup points to place inside the top 125 at the end of the season, they earn membership for the following season.
Akshay Bhatia earned the status last week at the Puerto Rico Open and Tom Kim did it last season before securing his status with his win at the Wyndham Championship.
Of course, Lee would love to win, securing a five-year membership to the PGA Tour and exemptions into all four majors for the next three years.
“I obviously played the majors last year and played really well in them,” Lee said. “I definitely feel like I had the potential to be up there. Obviously, guys are playing really good and have such good stretches. But, yeah, I was just hoping for a week like this and to play really good golf and not too many mistakes.”