Aussie Lee wins US Women’s Open with 72-hole scoring record

Australia’s Minjee Lee won the 77th US Women’s Open on Sunday, rolling to a four-stroke victory to capture her second career major golf title in record-smashing fashion.,The 26-year-old from Perth fired a level par 71 in the final round at Pine Needles in Southern Pines, North Carolina, to finish on a 72-hole event record 13-under 271.,“I’m speechless. I can’t believe it right now,” Lee said. “It’s super special. It has been my dream since I was a little girl.”,World number four Lee, who took her first major title at last year’s Evian Championship, followed in the footsteps of Aussie mentor Karrie Webb, who won a US Women’s Open title at Pine Needles in 2001.,“This was the one I’ve always wanted to win so it feels extra special and I feel amazing right now,” Lee said.,The old US Women’s Open low 72-hole mark was 272 set by Sweden’s Annika Sorenstam at Pine Needles in 1996 and matched by American Juli Inkster in 1999 and South Korean Chun In-gee in 2015.,Lee captured her eighth LPGA title by holding off American Mina Harigae, second on 275 after a closing 72, and claimed a record $1.8 million top prize from a $10-million purse, the richest in women’s golf history.,“We’re only moving in the right direction,” Lee said of the prize money. “It’s only going to get better from here. It’s such a large sum. I’m honored to be the first winner of the sum but it’s only going to get better and better.”,South Korean Choi Hye-jin was third on 277, one stroke ahead of world number one Ko Jin-young of South Korea with New Zealand’s Lydia Ko fifth on 279.,Lee, who also set a 54-hole Open record of 200, began with a three-stroke lead over Harigae and a six-shot edge on the rest of the field, but felt nervous throughout the round.,“I felt a little ‘jelly’ all day but I’m here and I’m happy now,” Lee said. “With a little bit of nerves, overall, I felt like I did pretty good.,“I just tried to breathe a lot but it’s hard when so many people are watching you and so much is at stake.”,Lee opened with back-to-back birdies to reach 15-under, a 35-foot birdie putt at the second hole stretching her lead to five shots, but she found a greenside bunker and made bogey at the par-3 fifth.,At the seventh, Lee’s tee shot went next to a weed in the sandy native area. She blasted out to greenside fringe but took a bogey, yet kept her four-stroke lead when Harigae made bogey as well.,Lee sank a clutch seven-foot par putt at the ninth and made another par save at the par-5 10th, where her second shot bounced over the green and landed in a dead bush. Lee wedged a bump-and-run shot to the far side of the green and two-putted.,“I started good, had a little struggle in the middle and at the end was just trying to make pars,” Lee said.,Harigae made a bogey at 11 and Lee sank an eight-foot birdie putt at the 12th, then birdied the par-5 15th to keep a six-stroke edge.,That was plenty for Lee to grab the triumph despite a bogey at the par-3 16th and a tap-in miss to bogey the 18th.,– Harigae’s best major –,Harigae, who won $1 million as runner-up, battled her own nerves and settled for her first top-10 major finish.,“That was probably one of the top rounds where I was really nervous, but I handled it pretty well. I’m proud of myself,” Harigae said.,“I’m not going to lie, my stomach hurt the last couple holes coming down. I was really stressed out, but I was really just focusing on making solid contact and hitting good putts.,“The main takeaways are I really am able to handle myself out there. I belong up there.”,