July 14, 2016: Korea’s Soomin Lee emerged as the early joint best Asian performer in the first round of The Open on Thursday, shooting an impressive three-under-par 68 in his Major debut at Royal Troon.
The Asian Tour rising star took full advantage of calm conditions to sink four birdies against a lone bogey to join Japan’s Shugo Imahira in a share of fifth place and trail clubhouse leader Patrick Reed of the United States by two shots with play still on-going.
Lee, 22, was delighted to post his first sub-70 score since his career breakthrough victory at the Shenzhen International in China in April and credited his thorough preparation this week for his change in fortunes.
“I’m really excited. The last three weeks, I didn’t play good. I feel very good now. I just kept it going. There was no wind and this gave a lot of chances to the players. I just tried to keep the ball on the fairway, keep my focus. Tomorrow, it’s going to be windy, so I knew my chance was today,” said Lee.
“I had three practice rounds this week, three 18 holes. I don’t know this course at all. Last week was my first time at a links course (at the Scottish Open) and this tournament is my second time. I went out as often as I could to learn the course better.”
Currently fifth on the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit, Lee reveled in his first taste of a Major competition, basking in the glorious sunshine and playing in front of an appreciative Scottish gallery.
He hit 12 of 14 fairways and needed only 25 putts to negotiate his way around the historic Scottish links. “I didn’t see the scoreboards for most day. On 16 or 17, it was the first time I looked at it. It was fun to see my name there. It’s my first Major, so it’s good,” he smiled.
But rain expected to hit Troon tomorrow, the slightly built Korean is preparing for a tough time in the second round in his bid to extend his fairy-tale run.
“Try to keep more focus for tomorrow. Over here, one day can have four seasons! I need more focus. I will try that. Winning in Shenzhen earlier this year helped my golf and gave me a lot of confidence,” said Lee.
It wasn’t quite love at first sight when Lee first had a look at his first links course last week at Stuart Castle.
“First time I saw a links course, I thought it was disgusting,” he said. “It was very different from Asian courses. It has very heavy rough, hard greens and hard fairway conditions. When I hit a two iron, it could be the same as a driver,” he said.
“I’ll just try to enjoy myself. It’s only my second time playing on a links course, so I need to learn playing on this type of courses more often. It is the biggest crowds that I’ve play in front of too. I really enjoyed the experience.”
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