Short-game jitters washed away, Lee gives KPGA a green light for fourth straight top-10

Lee Jae-kyung, the 2019 Korean Professional Golf Association (KPGA) Korean Tour rookie of the year, has the best game in the country, as evidenced by his two wins and four runner-up finishes.

His short game, however, is far from strong.

He describes his short game as “the level of a weekend golfer who hits 100 strokes.”

Even in high school, when he was playing for the national team, his short game was “like an Ipswich,” he admits.

His left hand would go in and out of control when he gripped the wedge.

“All I could think about was if I didn’t make par, I was in trouble,” he said. In the rough around the greens, he often grabbed a putter instead of a wedge.

It’s no wonder that during his training camp in the United States last winter, Lee worked on his short game.

By gripping the wedge the way a baseball player grips a bat, Lee gained better control of her left hand on wedge shots and made fewer short game mistakes.

Lee shot a 4-under 68 in the first round of the KPGA Korean Tour’s KB Financial Live Championship ($700 million in prize money) at Blackstone Golf Club (Par 72) in Icheon-si, Gyeonggi-do, on Sept. 25.

Tied for the lead with Kim Min-soo and Lee Tae-hoon (Canada), Lee earned her first win of the season and her third career victory in two years after dominating the 2021 Genesis Championship.

Most importantly, it was a welcome end to his bad blood with Blackstone Golf Club.

He shot back-to-back 80s here in 2019 as a rookie and withdrew in 2021 after a first-round 79.

Last year, he was so afraid of the course he didn’t even play.

Lee, who started the day on the 10th hole, parred the front nine before making her first birdie on the par-5 first hole.

She followed that up with a birdie on 메이저놀이터 No. 3 (par-3) and a bogey on No. 5 (par-5) with a birdie on No. 6 (par-4) before closing out the day with back-to-back birdies on No. 8 (par-4) and No. 9 (par-4).

“I’ve been playing so well lately that I didn’t capitalize on my early birdie opportunities, so when I parred nine holes in a row, I waited patiently for my chance,” said Lee, who has three straight top-10 finishes (4th-7th-7th) in his last four tournaments. “I’m very happy with four under par on a difficult course.”

He attributes his recent improvement to improving his short game, which has always been a weakness.

He said that practicing his short game is still his top priority, and even in tournaments, when he arrives at the golf course, the first thing he does is work on his short game rather than his shots.

“If my goal is to get a 100, I get about a 90 in practice. “It’s not easy, but if I can get to 100, I think I’ll have more chances to win,” she said.

Lee Jae-kyung, who missed the cut in the first three events of the season, said she was “lazy and gave up easily”.

Lee, who used to wake up late and leave the house with the excuse of being tired, now wakes up around 6 a.m. and arrives at the golf course at 8 a.m. to start practicing.

“I’ve gotten rid of all other unnecessary things besides golf,” he added.

“I’m not going to get cocky just because I’ve been in the top 10 for three weeks in a row,” Lee said, “I’m going to do my best hole by hole for the next three days without being greedy.”

Kim Min-soo, who is yet to win a tournament, carded an eagle, four birdies, and two bogeys to drop four strokes.

Kim, who has won more than 10 screen golf tournaments and is dubbed the “Screen Golf Emperor,” broke out of a slump that saw him miss the cut in all four of his previous events.

“My putts weren’t good, but today they were so good,” said Kim, who humbled himself by saying, “My goal is to make the cut.”

Lee, who has three wins on the Korean Tour, including last year’s Hana Bank Invitational, had one eagle and three birdies with one bogey.

Seo, who has five career wins, three of which came last year, finished the first day in a tie for fourth place at 3-under 69, followed by Ham at 2-under 70.

Long-hitting Chung, who is coming off a win at the GS Caltex Mae Kyung Open, shot a 1-under 71 and is in contention for the title.

Defending champion Yang Ji-ho shot a 2-over 74.

Seok-hyun Baek, who is looking to win his second straight title after winning the SK Telecom Open, could not continue his momentum with a 3-over 75.

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