NAPLES, FLA | Minjee Lee left the course after the opening round of the CME Group Tour Championship with an uninspiring 1-under 71 under her fashionable belt. Lee shook it off and put on her best dress to celebrate a season of success at the Rolex LPGA Award Banquet.
Lee ascended to the stage with LPGA legend Annika Sorenstam to receive the Rolex ANNIKA Major Award for her strong performance at all the major championships this season. After she posed for pictures with her trophy, she sat down to watch a highlight reel of her season with the audience.
“The video that they played actually gave me goose bumps,” Lee said Friday. “It just gave me a little bit of inspiration coming into today and the rest of the week. It was just really nice.”
The next morning, Lee shot a 4-under 68 with five birdies and just one bogey. The Aussie needed just 25 putts to get through Tiburon Golf Course and averaged 269.5 yards off the tee. With her strong second round performance, Lee shot up the leaderboard from T23 to T10.
With the season Lee has had, it’s easy to be inspired. Her first multi-win season since 2016, Lee has raked in $3 million worth of prize money. She cashed in the biggest check of the season so far – $1.8 million – after her second major title in as many years at the US Women’s Open. Lee far and away leads the tour in strokes gained approach (+2.00) and strokes gained ball striking (+2.50).
The Rolex ANNIKA Major Award is not the only trophy Lee could take home. Earlier in the week Lee also won the Aon Risk Reward Challenge for her performance on specific holes picked by Aon. She also has a chance at the most prestigious award the LPGA has to offer: the Rolex Player of the Year award.
Lee led the race for player of the year for most of the season, but Lydia Ko managed to gain a one-point lead with her win at the BMW Ladies Championship. Ko went 7-under in her opening round and is looking to run away with both the CME Group Tour Championship title and Rolex Player of the Year honors.
While Lee is looking to chase Ko and take home a whopping third trophy, the key is to not think about what’s at stake. For Lee, it has to be all about golf.
“I didn’t (think about Player of the Year) today while I was playing,” Lee said. “Yesterday I thought about it a little bit here and there, but I don’t think it helped me. So, today I was like, ‘I’m going to go out there and just do my very best like I always do.’ That’s pretty much what I did today.
Ko currently leads the field at 13-under through 36-holes, so Lee will have to play a lot of catch up over the next two days if she wants to put up a fight for player of the year. But if she finds a replay of the Rolex LPGA Award Banquet, that should be all the inspiration she needs to take on the likes of Lydia Ko.