Minsey Lee has spent the last few years feeling the glory and suffering of golf more than anyone else.
She earned her first major title in a come-from-behind playoff win at the 2021 Evian Championship, and less than a year later, she followed with a record-setting triumph at the 2022 U.S. Women’s Open. She was then tied for 43rd when she tried to defend her Evian title, but her fatigue worries and her first two majors of the year ended in disappointing results.
The 27-year-old Australian, who climbed to No. 2 in the world last summer and is currently ranked No. 6, will have to play Pebble Beach Golf Links, a famous course on the California coast, to defend his British Open title. need to conquer. Tournament starts Thursday.
In a spring interview at San Francisco’s TPC Harding Park, Lee discusses glorious iron play, the dangers of Pebble Beach, the evolution of the women’s sport, and why it’s so hard to win a major once or twice.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Since 2019, I haven’t missed a spot in a major.
I didn’t know either.
How much of that represents progress in your motor skills and mindset?
You are always striving to get a little better every day. So for me, for my progress and not missing a cut during that period, I feel like I put a lot of time and effort into my game and improved every day. This just shows my consistency over X hours.
How did winning the 2021 Evian Championship shape your ensuing years?
A lot of people were asking, “When will you win your first major?”, so I was a little relieved. I heard a lot of things, but I never heard them face to face. They were always in passing places or on social media or here and there. So I was a little relieved that the monkey was easier. I knew it was in me, but it finally happened – it’s really, really hard to actually win a major.
I always aim to win a major, and I have a specific goal, so my first victory led me to next year.
And as we learned at Evian last year, it’s difficult to defend the championship.
oh yeah. It’s really hard.
Going to Pebble Beach, how would you approach defending the majors?
The hardest part is doing what you normally do. Typically, when you’re on the field, you’ll be pulled in different directions, including the media and practice rounds. Since it’s a new venue, we have to start everything from scratch, so it takes a lot of effort.
Unlike Evian, who already knows the golf course and has been playing for years. [This year], slightly different. The US Open has always meant a lot to me, and winning it was a dream come true for me. I don’t know how it feels to drive there as the defending champion.
The wind does matter at Pebble Beach. You grew up in Australia and have faced the wind. You live in Texas and are dealing with the wind. Do you feel like you have an advantage this year?
I like playing in the wind and I like the rigors of golf. I feel like I can show my creativity when the wind is strong. Low shots are key, but not necessarily just low shots. Are you using the wind? Are you going to fight the wind? You can play in various ways while being blown by the wind. I think the more difficult it is, the more fun it is, and it divides the field between those who are good ball strikers and those who are not. I’ve always played in the wind, so I don’t see much of a difference.
There aren’t many better iron players on the planet. Did you find yourself still focusing on your irons when practicing and preparing, or do you have more time to spend on other things?
Until I saw this stat, I didn’t feel any better than that. yes, sure my stats I never worked specifically on the irons, even though I was better than the men. For example, I’ve always worked on my technique and doing certain moves in certain shots. But last year just happened to be better than other years, I don’t know what really changed. It was a bit of an affair. When you’re working on something for a long time, at some point it hits you. I probably don’t work on my swing that much right now. I work on other parts of the game because those other areas benefit me the most.
You said you didn’t pay attention to the stats, but last year she set the British Open scoring record and won the most money in women’s golf history ($1.8 million). Do you think about those superlative words?
I feel I shouldn’t. It might be a good idea to praise yourself by looking at it and thinking, “You did a good job.” I just work and don’t think about golf when I’m away from the golf course.
In the Netflix documentary series Full Swing, Brooks Koepka describes golf as a game where you think you can’t lose when things are going well and when things go wrong. You will never find your way back. It hasn’t been a smooth year for you. where are you on that continuum?
We went through the off-season as usual, then played in Asia, but we didn’t do so well. I was planning on staying home for a few more weeks, but I missed 3 events and it happened to be 6 weeks.
Time flies so fast, and I’ve worked hard for eight years, so I thought I was using that time for myself. So I did too, and I feel good. I feel pretty refreshed. The first week was Chevron. The majors are back for the first week, but I’m slowly getting back to playing rhythm.
The caddy changed recently. What impact did it have on the course?
I actually learned a lot about myself. When I was younger I tend to rely on caddies, but I think I’ve been doing that for quite some time because I was young and didn’t really know what I wanted. Now I know myself a little better and have grown even more.
I feel like I know everything I want in a caddy and what a caddy needs. I don’t need reassurance. I know what I’m doing I need someone who knows me well and can be a good companion on the golf course. We spend so much time on the golf course with them that I feel like if I don’t like the person, I’m not doing my job well.
This is the first U.S. Women’s Open to be held at Pebble Beach, a big presence in golf’s imagination. Which one will be the bigger milestone for women’s golf? What about the British Open being held at Pebble Beach, or last year’s British Open at Muirfield (where women weren’t even allowed to become members until 2017)?
It’s a little complicated in that respect. I am so happy and grateful to have been able to play at Muirfield, have access to the golf course, and play at Pebble for the first time. I know it takes a lot of effort to win a championship there. It’s not easy. Nothing is easy, right? —but it’s a little bittersweet that it took so long to get the women to the golf course. I am extremely grateful to the Tour, the United States Golf Association and our sponsors for their dedication to bringing the women’s game and her LPGA to these incredible venues. And I’m sure this situation will get even better.
But it feels like it’s been a while.
In February you mentioned that one of your goals is to not be completely exhausted by the end of 2023. More and more elite athletes are talking about burnout, mental illness, depression and exhaustion. How much does that bother you when you’re thinking about when to play?
I have always had a fulfilling year. I’ve been to a lot of events and that’s what I really wanted to do. I wanted to play But now I want to play less. For example, I don’t want to be exhausted to attend an important event at the end of the year.
My priorities are different now. You don’t have to spend all your time playing every event to keep your card as a rookie. As I get older, I want to take care of my body and mind. That’s what helps me perform at my best, and that’s why so many athletes are now talking about taking care of their health, their minds, and where they are in life. think. I think it’s really important to be healthy inside and out. If no one talks about it, no one can really know about it. As a result, they cannot get the right help when they need it.
Does winning two majors give you the freedom to take a break or pause?
not much. I never thought of it that way. Clearly I’m hungry for more. I want to win other majors, and I don’t think that will change in the future. And although I came close to becoming world No. 1 several times, I still couldn’t cross that line. So I still have a lot to show you. I have so many battles left inside me. I am still very motivated.
You first played when you were about 10 years old. Looking back, do you wish you had started earlier? Did you start later?
It was a good age for me. I swam and played golf. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, I just tried many things. Different sports, dance, music, whatever. I was lucky that my parents let me try everything. I found it in golf. I really enjoyed practicing, going to the golf course, and visiting my friends. I was hitting this fluffy golf ball around on the chipping green and it was just fun. I think the way I got into it was the right way.
Was golf your best sport?
Well, I have pretty good hand-eye coordination, but I think it’s because we were a really golfing family. My parents, siblings, and grandparents all loved golf and were always there for me.
You’ve been to the Olympics twice, so would you like to play in Paris next year?
It’s pretty high on my list. I think Paris will be a huge crowd. The Olympics is probably the biggest honor you can get to represent your country, so I think that will be one of my big goals for next year.
But Pebble Beach is first. When does it start playing in your head?
I’m not the type to research golf courses in advance. I’ve seen some holes on TV, but no details.
I like to look at courses and really imagine what it will be like when I get there. I can’t tell from the map. I just want to internalize it once I get there.