West Australian Min Woo Lee harnessed the energy of the raucous New York crowd and rediscovered his fighting spirit to play his way back into contention on day two of the US PGA Championship.
Round 1 was completed as Round 2 got underway at Oak Hill Country Club on Friday morning, seven Aussies and two Kiwis hoping to play their way into the weekend rounds.
Three-over on his first round, Lee needed something around par to ensure he would advance to Round 3. He burst out of the blocks with four birdies in his opening five holes in a round of three-under 67 that puts him in a tie for 10th through 36 holes.
Corey Conners (68), Scottie Scheffler (68) and Viktor Hovland (67) lead the way at 5-under par, Lee’s even par score the best of the five Aussies who made the cut.
Without a made cut since his tie for sixth at THE PLAYERS Championship in March, the 24-year-old rode a hot putter to not only climb the leaderboard, but stay there.
He made five birdies in his first seven holes and dropped just one shot in his final 11 holes, producing crucial par saves from seven feet on nine, four feet on 10, six feet at 12, six feet at 16 and 10 feet at 17.
“It’s been a while since I was actually really, really proud of myself and the way I handled myself,” was Lee’s post-round appraisal.
“It was a grind out there. There was a lot of par saves that I needed to do just to keep the momentum up, and I did that.
“Very gritty out there, which is something that I feel like I’ve been lacking a little bit.
“It’s kind of nice to just do that, especially at a major championship.”
Prior to his par saves came a birdie blitz rarely seen at Oak Hill.
He began with a 21-foot birdie putt at the first, hit wedge to five feet for birdie at two and holed a 16-foot putt for par at the par-3 third. An up-and-down from left of the green led to a birdie at the par-5 fourth and then capped an extraordinary start with a 77-foot birdie at the par-3 fifth.
“It was crazy. Our whole group made a birdie, which was nice, and got the crowd going,” Lee added.
“I needed something to switch because I feel like I’ve just been playing a little sluggish over the last few tournaments.
“I don’t know what clicked, but I think I just got over it. I just didn’t like missing cuts and just wanted to play really good today.”
Lee wasn’t the only Aussie under par on day two.
After making just seven pars in his first round, Victorian Lucas Herbert had 15 pars, two birdies and a single bogey in his round of 1-under 69.
He dropped to six-over for the tournament when he made bogey at the par-3 fifth but a 36-foot birdie putt on 12 and a birdie from five feet on 13 moved him up 41 spots and into a share of 49th.
A run of three straight birdies was the highlight of Cam Davis’s even-par round of 70, Adam Scott dropped four shots in the space of three holes on the front nine in his round of four-over 74 and Cameron Smith had three birdies, three bogeys and a double bogey at the par-5 fourth in a second straight two-over 72.
Just inside the cut-line late in his round, AT&T Byron Nelson champion Jason Day (72) made bogey at 16 and double bogey at 17 to miss the cut by three.
Making his major championship debut, David Micheluzzi shot 73 in his second round. Although he missed the cut, Micheluzzi left Oak Hill on a high, making a birdie from 17 feet at the par-4 18th.
Round 2 scores
T11 Min Woo Lee 73-67—140
T19 Ryan Fox (NZ) 68-73—141
T19 Cam Davis 71-70—141
T30 Adam Scott 68-74—142
T48 Lucas Herbert 75-69—144
T48 Cameron Smith 72-72—144
T98 Jason Day 76-72—148
T109 David Micheluzzi 76-73—149
T127 Steven Alker (NZ) 80-72—152