Danny Lee Overcomes Adversity

Danny Lee during third round of CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges Tournament in South Korea
Danny Lee

During October in South Korea, Danny Lee was reminding everyone of his quality at The CJ Cup in the country of his birth on Jeju Island.

On Saturday afternoon, the former US Amateur Champion Lee made a long eagle putt to share the lead with American and World No 4 Justin Thomas.

The 29-year-old began the final round as the sentimental favourite in his homeland and also amid concerns for the premature birth of his second child back home in the States.

An emotional Danny Lee revealed to the media that his second child was born the previous Sunday – the baby was scheduled to be born closer to the Christmas holidays and was in an incubator.

“I was not going to talk about this until the end of the event,” said Lee.

The fact that Lee came close to securing his second PGA Tour title – after claiming the Greenbrier Classic back in 2015 – with incredible duress in his personal life was an incredible effort. He finished runner-up by two strokes but he gave one of the world’s best a battle all the way.

Thomas and Lee were still tied atop of the leaderboard through 13 holes before the American produced a clutch birdie on the 14th hole. Lee pushed a bit harder and he made some uncharacteristic errors off the tee.

He made back-to-back bogeys on 14 and 15 to effectively put pay to his chances.

“Just a couple holes that were letting me down with the driver on the back nine,” Lee admitted.

“A couple tee shots that you cannot hit it in that bunkers on the left and I did, so struggling to make par from there when Justin had a couple birdie looks.”

Right to the end, Lee did not die wondering. His eagle putt on the 72nd hole – similar to the one he holed on Saturday afternoon – almost brought the house down. It was on track for the hole the entire way but it hit the back of the cup and bounced out.

“Pretty close. I wasn’t going to leave that short,” Lee said of the putt.

“It looked so good for so long. Had a little too much speed to go in, but I gave it a really good run.”

The miss gave Thomas the chance to two-putts for victory and he closed it out for his 11th PGA TOUR title.

“It was a very tough day,” Thomas said after his win.

“Danny made it extremely difficult. He really made a lot of putts, a lot of unbelievable up and downs to kind of keep me from getting all the momentum. I really, really played solidly.”

Justin Thomas and Danny Lee (R) at the CJ Open @ Nine Bridges in South Korea
Justin Thomas and Danny Lee (R) at the CJ Open @ Nine Bridges in South Korea

The runner-up finish was the third of Lee’s PGA Tour career and he earned US$1,053,000 (NZ$1.65m).

It was a performance that will go a long way to securing his PGA Tour card for another season. He also jumped from 131 to 11th on the Fed Ex Cup standings and certainly got the attention of the International Team Captain Ernie Els ahead of the President’s Cup in December.

Lee was happy with a standout performance under trying circumstances.

“Before I tee off my very first tee shot on Thursday, if someone’s going to give me solo second, I would take it in a heartbeat. It is a good week but also very disappointing,” he said.

“I really wanted to win the CJ Cup. It means a lot to me to win it in front of the Korean fans and all my Korean family but it is what it is. I gave my best out there today and solo second was the best I could do.”

Danny Lee went on to finish T-10th at the PGA Tour’s ZOZO Championships in Japan.

His recent hot run of form has seen him climb 15 spots on the Official World Golf Rankings to 82 in the world.

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