Lee heads strong Aussie charge in Round 1 at THE PLAYERS

West Australian Min Woo Lee defied the terror of TPC Sawgrass and a late bout of calf-cramp to lead the Aussie charge on day one of THE PLAYERS Championship in Florida.

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FLORIDA – MARCH 09: Min Woo Lee of Australia reacts grabbing his leg after playing his tee shot on the 15th hole during the first round of THE PLAYERS Championship on THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass on March 09, 2023 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Media release via Australian Golf Media

Five Australians – Steve Elkington, Greg Norman, Adam Scott, Jason Day and Cameron Smith – have left the home of the PGA TOUR as champions and there are four inside the top 20 after the opening round at Ponte Vedra Beach.

The best of those is Lee, whose four-under 68 in his maiden tournament appearance puts him in a share of sixth and four shots behind American Chad Ramey (64).

Sydney’s Cam Davis has shrugged off the illness that has plagued the start of his 2023 campaign to post 69 in Round 1, one clear of Day and another debutant in Harrison Endycott who opened with matching two-under 70s.

Out in the first group of the day, Lee had the honour of making the first birdie of the championship at the par-4 first and then took sole ownership of the lead with a second birdie at the par-5 second.

He added a third from 14 feet at the par-4 seventh and then made three on the trot from the 11th hole to announce himself in spectacular fashion.

Yet Sawgrass rarely lets rookies get away unscathed.

Lee dropped a shot on 14, suffered a violent cramp in his calf on the tee on 15, birdied 16 and then fell prey to the iconic par-3 17th, putting his tee shot in the water before getting up-and-down from the drop zone for bogey.

There was a third bogey in his final five holes on 18 to take some of the joy out of an otherwise promising start to his debut at THE PLAYERS.

The 24-year-old explained the reason for the cramp was an allergic reaction to an electrolyte earlier in the week as a return to an alignment cue on putts allowed him to start so well.

“I did change something with my putting,” revealed Lee, who ranked second in Strokes Gained: Putting in Round 1 with a total of 26 putts.

“Felt like I missed a lot of putts right, so I started lining the ball up. They started on line, which I thought I was doing without the line.

“It was quite nice to actually see the ball rolling on the intended line.

“Everything was pretty good, solid off the tee and solid approach play, which is a nice recipe, especially on this course.”

While Lee dropped a shot on 17, Davis made one up on the field in his round of 69.

Three-under on his round standing on the tee, Davis hit his tee shot to just five feet, converting his birdie chance as he seeks to make the cut for the first time in his third visit to THE PLAYERS.

Finally feeling healthy again, Davis attributed his good start to a change in mindset.

“I’ve just cleaned up a few things up in my head,” Davis said.

“It’s been a bit of a rough start to the year, but I feel like I’m starting to work on things that will really benefit me.

“This is a nice little bonus to shoot a nice round at this point in time but hopefully it’s just getting better and better.

“The frustration was getting a bit too much for me. This is the first week where I’m really feeling like
I’m starting to get the hang of it again.

“Hopefully this is just the beginning for me again.”

THE PLAYERS champion in 2016, Day arrived at Sawgrass on the back of four consecutive top-10 finishes on the PGA TOUR.

He bounced back from a double bogey after finding the water with his tee shot at the par-4 seventh with birdies at nine, 10, 12 and 14 to join Endycott at two-under.

Starting from the 10th tee, Endycott had three bogeys in the space of four holes early in his round but played his final 12 holes in four-under and settle nicely into one of golf’s biggest events.

Adam Scott’s even par 72 consisted of three birdies, a bogey and a double on one, Aaron Baddeley shot 73 while it was a disastrous day for Lucas Herbert who had 10-over 82.

THE PLAYERS Championship
Round 1 Australian scores
T6           Min Woo Lee (68)
T12        Cam Davis (69)
T19        Jason Day (70)
T19        Harrison Endycott (70)
T49        Adam Scott (72)
T72        Aaron Baddeley (73)
144        Lucas Herbert (82)

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