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Aussie gun’s special Tiger time

U.S. Open - Preview Day Two
Min Woo Lee and Tiger Woods chip onto the sixth. Picture: Alex Slitz/Getty Images/AFP

Min Woo Lee’s first experience of Pinehurst No.2 started with a rough encounter with a wild fox squirrel but then went up notch during a practice round with three-time winner Tiger Woods as the Australian gun looks to emulate his sister’s feat.

Cameron Smith also labelled the layout “sick” and full of “eye candy” as he spent extra time chipping around greens he called the “best we have played on, close to ever” as the six-man Australian contingent looking to lift the trophy.

Minjee Lee was the last Australian to win a US Open, which she did in 2022, and Min Woo spent his early rounds exploring the famed layout while also fending off the native animals.

In a video posted to his 530,000 Instagram followers, the 26-year-old found the creature too inquisitive for his liking.

“Hello, Pinehurst. What is this animal?” Lee asks in the video.

“Is it a skunk or a raccoon or a squirrel? Ayy ay ay ay ayy. Stay back, brother. Stay back. You want something? Look at his stance. Oi! Stay back, brother. I just want to get a side profile. Just chilling.”

But after his wild animal encounter, Lee then walked the fairways with Woods and world No.10 Max Homa looking to build on his season that is yet to yield the results he was chasing in his first full season on the US PGA Tour.

Woods said the young Australian was not shy of making conversation, especially with his son, Charlie, who walked the round with them.

“He (Charlie) was very excited today to watch Max and Min Woo and watch them hit golf balls,” Woods said.

“They’ve talked to him quite a bit, especially Min Woo and him. I think they’re closer in age than I am to anybody else. It’s great. It’s great for us to be able to share these moments together.”

Lee, who is likely to partner Jason Day at the Paris Olympics, has only one top-20 finish so far in 2024 when he finished runner-up at the Cognizant Classic and

But he spent a lot of time at Pinehurst adding a special weapon to his arsenal, one he hopes could make a big difference this week.

“There’s a lot of chipping, running up, bump-and-run shots that I normally don’t really practise. I went out there today to a course where I can do that and be prepared for it,” Lee told Fox Sports.

“Most of the preparation is that bump and run shot; that’s very important.

“There’s not many courses where there’s too many turtlebacks and I’ve heard there’s a lot. I might not hit it as much as I think but just to have it in the bag is a one percenter.”

It was the same for Smith who was in awe of the course, which he arrived at after a horror final round 80 at the last LIV event in Houston, and aware of the challenge in front of him.

“First of all, it’s a lot of eye-candy going on, it looks so sick. The greens are probably the best we have played on, close to ever. The course is awesome, everything I hoped for,” he told the Golf Channel.

“It’s just more challenging, it’s the US Open. As different as it is to some of the US Open courses we play, you still have to hit the fairway, a lot of centres of greens, and do a lot of two-putting.”

Geoff Ogilvy was the last Australian male to win the US Open in 2006.

Ogilvy told Fox Sports’ preview show that Pinehurst was “just a really tough test. It’s firm”.

“It’s actually not like a normal US Open venue in that it doesn’t rely on being narrow (with) long rough. It’s quite wide,” he said.

“But you can see from the pictures it’s pretty bad if you do miss the cut surface, you’re in some sandy, long, gnarly sort of grass. Lots of sand everywhere.

“It’s like it’s seemingly built for the US Open. You could play 365 (days a year) at Pinehurst No.2 and have a US Open. It’s that sort of course. It’s always difficult.”

AUSSIE TEE TIMES (AEST)

Thursday

9.18pm: Lucas Glover, Sam Burns, Cameron Smith

10.02pm: Min Woo Lee, Sahith Theegala, Nicolai Højgaard

10.35pm: Austin Eckroat Adrian Meronk Cam Davis

Friday

2.30am: Jason Scrivener Brandon Robinson Thompson Brendan Valdes (a)

3.03am: Jason Day Harris English Tom Kim

3.58am: Chris Kirk Billy Horschel Adam Scott