Minjee Lee of Australia wins U.S. Women's Open for record $1.8 million paycheck

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Minjee Lee tees off on 12 during the final round of the U.S. Women's Open at Southern Pines, N.C., on Sunday, June 5, 2022.
Minjee Lee tees off on 12 during the final round of the U.S. Women's Open at Southern Pines, N.C., on Sunday. Lee birdied the hole for a six-shot lead. (Chris Carlson / Associated Press)

Minjee Lee won the U.S. Women’s Open by four strokes over Mina Harigae at Pine Needles on Sunday to earn $1.8 million, the largest payout in the history of women’s golf.

Lee closed with an even-par 71 to finish at 13-under 271 after the Australian flirted with the tournament record of 16 under set by Juli Inkster in 1999 at Old Waverly.

“I mean, I’m speechless,” Lee said. “I can’t believe it right now. No, it’s just super, super special and just a great honor. It’s been my dream since I was a little girl. It’s the one that I always wanted to win on; now I’ve done it, and just feels amazing.”

Lee's winnings came from a record $10 million purse.

“We’re only moving in the right direction,” Lee said. “I think it’s only going to get better and better from here. It’s such a large sum, and I’m really honored to be the first winner I guess of this sum. We’re only going to get better and better.”

Harigae shot a 72 for her best finish in a major and a check of slightly more than $1 million. Although she knew she had no chance to win down the stretch, Harigae said it was still stressful knowing that $1 million — a check that is larger than the winner makes at most LPGA Tour events — was at stake.

“I’m not going to lie, my stomach hurt the last couple holes coming down the stretch,” Harigae said. “I was really stressed out, but I was really just focusing on one shot at a time, making solid contact, and just hitting good putts.”

South Korea’s Hye-Jin Choi was one of only two players to break par Sunday, carding a 70 to finish third at seven under.

South Korea’s Jin Young Ko, the world’s No. 1-ranked player, finished fourth at six under, seven shots back of the lead after a 71. Lydia Ko was at five under after a 72.

Ingrid Lindblad, the Louisiana State player from Sweden, was the low amateur at one under, tying for 11th after a 76.

The 26-year-old Lee was never challenged on a course that played significantly tougher than the previous three days. She opened with rounds of 67, 66 and 67.

Lee became the sixth straight international player to win the U.S. Women’s Open and the first from Australia since mentor Karrie Webb in 2001. It was her second win at a major championship overall after winning the Evian Championship last July.

Lee, who entered the week ranked No. 4 in the world, has won eight LPGA Tour events and became the first repeat winner this year following her victory at the Founders Cup three weeks ago in New Jersey.

Lee entered the final round with a three-stroke lead over Harigae and said after the third round her goal was to continue to stay aggressive and make birdies.

She lived up to that early on, birdieing the first two holes to move to 15 under and take a five-stroke lead over Harigae.

She stumbled a bit with bogeys on Nos. 5 and 7, but was still able to make the turn at even-par 35 and with a four-stroke cushion when Harigae also bogeyed the seventh. The lead increased to five after Harigae bogeyed the par-four 11th hole, all but sealing the win.

Lee then knocked in a bending nine-foot birdie putt on No. 12 to push the lead to six, prompting her to thrust her arm in celebration.

Harigae didn’t make her first birdie until the par-five 15th hole.

Nelly Korda closed with a 73 on Sunday to tie for eighth at two under in her first tournament since undergoing surgery to repair a blood clot in her left arm.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.