Min Woo Lee began Sunday’s final round of The Players Championship with a chance to win, in the final twosome and just two shots back of leader Scottie Scheffler.
By the end of the third hole, Lee was tied atop the leaderboard.
By the end of the fourth hole, he was three shots behind – and he never got closer than two again, as the 24-year-old Australian closed in 4-over 76 and finished T-6, nine shots off Scheffler’s winning score.
“It happened really quick,” Lee said. “It's one of those things where it's Sunday and you just make a couple bad decisions and it all kind of falls down. But I hung in there pretty well. I didn't have it at all today. It's funny how yesterday I felt like I had the best swing in the world, and then today I just felt like nothing could go right.”
After hitting iron off the tee at the par-4 fourth and finding the rough, Lee had to lay up to 90 yards on the 393-yard hole. He then spun his next shot into the water that guards the front of the putting surface, and he walked off the green with a triple bogey.
“It's a short hole,” Lee said. “It's not really a hole where you make bogey or more. If you make a bogey, whatever. But to make a 7 there, it was pretty gut wrenching after I started really well.”
Lee’s troubles continued at the par-5 11th hole, where he hooked a drive into the left woods and needed three more shots just to escape the trees and have a go at the green. He’d card another 7, this time for double to effectively end any threat he may have had before that hole.
Yet, Lee failed to hang his head the rest of the round. He birdied Nos. 16 and 17 to give himself a chance at birdieing No. 18 and securing special temporary membership on the PGA Tour. When Lee’s 5-footer for birdie dropped at the iconic par-3, Lee raised one finger toward the sky.
No wonder Lee's major-winning sister, Minjee, playfully calls her little bro a "show-off."
"It's hard to engage the crowd when you've just made triple bogey and double bogeys and you're trying to keep your head up high," Lee said. "But just for a second there you just have to stop and really look at the crowd and [know] you're here for a reason."
Full-field scores The Players Championship
Though he bogeyed the par-4 finishing hole, Lee, a two-time winner of the DP World Tour, will collect 89 more non-member FedExCup points and earn himself a spot in next week’s Valspar Championship, should he decide to play.
And now at No. 45 in the world rankings, he's close to securing a maiden Masters berth.
“I knew in the back of my head that I needed to finish well,” Lee said. “I mean, I could have easily shot 10 over today and to make birdies on 16, 17, that was pretty crazy to do. It looked like the scoreboard changed quite a lot in those last 20, 30 minutes, hour. So, to make birdies – one birdie makes such a big difference. I'm happy to make those two. Yeah, I'm excited.
“Hopefully, I can play well in the next few PGA Tour tournaments I play in and can play out here.”