DALY CITY, Calif. – Cold slaps in the face didn’t slow Minjee Lee’s steady march up the leaderboard Friday at the Swinging Skirts Classic.
That’s what it felt like playing through spells of the second round, with bone-chilling winds blowing rain sideways across Lake Merced Golf Club. Gray, somber skies rolled low across the Bay area all morning, sweeping away smiles and uncertain shots.
Lee, though, kept riding all the momentum she built coming here.
Her round of 7-under-par 65 was four shots better than anyone else in the morning wave. Just eight players broke par in the morning while six players shot in the 80s. She was a shot off the lead with the afternoon wave just getting started and weather beginning to improve.
“It’s just momentum,” Lee said. “It’s just timing. I came off a really great win last week, so I should have a lot of confidence and momentum coming into this week.”
Lee, 19, is seeking back-to-back victories. She won the Lotte Championship in heavy winds last week in Hawaii. She closed out there impressively with a 64 for her second LPGA title, but she says she has never really considered herself somebody who thrives in bad weather.
“It depends on how you're feeling and how you're hitting it on that day,” Lee said. “I don't think you can say, ‘Oh, I'm so good in bad weather.’ You just take it as it comes and try your best, I guess.”
There were challenges staying warm and dry Friday.
“It was on and off rain,” Lee said. “I was putting my rain jacket on and off and on and off.”
Lee is looking to make it four consecutive victories for teenagers playing the LPGA. Before Lee’s victory in Hawaii, 18-year-old Lydia Ko won back-to-back events.
There would have been great vibes coming here for Lee even without last week’s victory. She won the 2012 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship at Lake Merced, topping a talented field that included Ko, Brooke Henderson, Ariya Jutanugarn and Alison Lee.
“It was like my first time in America, after all my junior years in Australia,” Minjee said. “I was really excited because I was here.”
Minjee beat Alison Lee in the finals.
“I have really great memories here,” Lee said. “I really love the golf course, and I think it's always in great condition.”
Lee’s scorecard Friday didn’t include a dropped shot on a day when scorecards were littered with bogeys. The winds were up and rain was falling almost from day’s start for the morning wave, and Lee still hit 12 of 14 fairways and all but two greens in regulation.
“I just took advantage of the opportunities I had,” Lee said. “I had a couple of wedges into some of the par 4s on the back nine, which was my front nine, and I had like three birdie chances that were, I don't know, 5 or 6 feet because I hit wedges in.
“I just stayed patient. If I made a mistake, I tried to make up-and-downs. I just chipped and putted well today.”
Lee was part of last year’s dynamic LPGA rookie class, probably the strongest and deepest in the history of the tour. She was the world No. 1 amateur when she turned pro in September 2014 and three months later shared medalist honors at LPGA Q-School. She didn’t wait long to break through for her first LPGA title. She won the Kingsmill Championship four months into her rookie season. A month after Kingsmill, Lee moved past Hall of Famer Karrie Webb as the highest ranked Australian in the world. Lee is No. 12 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings this week and looking to crack the top 10.