Jae Kyung Lee (24-CJ) came back stronger than ever. She overcame a long-standing Ips with a routine change and rebounded with three straight top-10 finishes. All that’s left is to win.
Lee traded five birdies for one bogey on the first day of the Korea Professional Golf Association (KPGA) Korean Tour’s KB Financial Livechampionship ($700,000) at Blackstone Icheon Golf Club (par 72-7270) in Icheon, Gyeonggi Province, on Friday. He teed off at the top of the leaderboard alongside Canadian compatriot Lee Tae-hoon (33).
After a par first round, Lee made his first birdie of the day on the first hole of the second round (No. 1 – par-5). After traveling 309 yards off the tee, she reached the green in just her third shot and followed it up with a tap-in birdie. With just over 60 yards to go, an approach shined. He added a birdie at No. 3 (par-3), then seemed to falter with a bogey at No. 5 (par-5) when his tee shot and second shot both went into the bunker.
But he bounced back with a birdie at the sixth 메이저놀이터 (par-4) and then birdied the final two holes to end his first round on a high note. He said: “I had a lot of chances in the first half and it’s a shame I didn’t capitalize. I had a few close calls, but overall, I’m satisfied,” he said. Four under par on the first day at the infamous Blackstone Icheon GC is a satisfactory result. Lee also said, “I think this is a course of ‘patience’. Considering the course, I am very satisfied with the result.”
Lee had a shaky start to the season. From the Korean Tour’s opening event, the DB Insurance PromiOpen, to the third event, the Korea Championship, last month, she missed the cut in three consecutive events. The turning point came at the GS Caltex Mae Kyung Open earlier this month. The tournament was shortened to 54 holes due to inclement weather, and he finished tied for fourth at 9-under-par 204, his first top-10 finish of the season. He followed that up with a tie for seventh at the Woori Financial Championship and the SK Telecom Open. At the SK Telecom Open, she played a completely different game from her opening round, battling for the title until the very end.
“I changed my routine,” Lee said. I missed the cut in three tournaments in a row from the start, and my performance was not good because I was too greedy to do well. I got into the habit of waking up early in the morning to train, and it made a difference.”
After playing for the national team for two years from 2015, he made his Korean Tour debut in 2019 and won the Rookie of the Year award. He won the Busan Gyeongnam Open at Woosung General Construction Aramir CC in his debut season and became a top star by winning the Genesis Championship in 2021. However, she hasn’t won a title since last year.
“My short game around the greens was not good,” Lee said, adding that she had been struggling for about eight years. “My hair would turn white before I hit my approach shot,” she said. “I would wake up in the morning and focus on my approach shot for about an hour. As my short game improved, I felt less pressure and more confident.” Changing his habits changed his behavior and made him mentally tougher.
Although he is thirsty to win, he has kept a low profile, saying, “I’m not going to be greedy, I’m going to focus on every hole.” It will be interesting to see if his confidence can overcome his battle of patience and focus.