Minjee Lee eyes glorious end to stellar LPGA Tour year

An upbeat Minjee Lee has dragged herself out of the sick bay to boost the elite 60-player field for the LPGA Tour's prestigious, mega-money season finale in Florida.

Lee, the world No.5 enjoying another stellar two-title season, is spearheading an impressive five-strong Australian challenge at the $US7 million ($A10.8 million) CME Group Tour Championship in Naples.

While a third major championship victory and women's golf's top ranking eluded the 27-year-old in 2023, the in-form Lee still has the chance to finish as the season's No.1 prize money earner if she claims a third victory from her past four starts.

Sunday's champion will pocket a record-equalling $US2 million ($A3.08 million) winner's cheque and Lee reckons this is just another big stride towards equality in women's sport.

"I've been on tour nine years and the tour has come a really long way," Lee said ahead of Thursday's opening round at at Tiburon Golf Club.

"Obviously a lot of partners and sponsors of our events have stepped up and put up the money and are trying to make it better for us in every single way.

"So I'm obviously really grateful for all the people who have stepped up.

"I know we've come a long way but I know there is a lot more work to be done."

More than money, though, Lee craves to stand alone as the season-long Race to the CME Globe champion in her ninth appearance at the showpiece event.

"I'm really excited to get this week going," the Perth ace said after revealing she'd been laid low with illness since winning last month's BMW Ladies Championship outside Seoul, which followed up her victory at the Kroger City Championship in New Jersey in September.

All up, including starts on the Korean and European tours, Lee boasts two wins, a second, a sixth and tied for 13th from her past five tournaments.

Minjee Lee.
Aussie Minjee Lee gets a champagne shower after winning the BMW Ladies Championship in South Korea.

"I've done a lot of travel since then. Got sick and then I'm better now," said the former world No.2.

"I have a lot more perseverance and patience than I thought I had. Sort of had an up and down year, especially starting the year a little bit slow and then winning twice in the back half of year.

"A lot of patience and hard work has gone into all the work that I've done in my game, and personal growth as well.

"Yeah, I feel like I really deserve those two (tournament wins)."

Fellow Australians Hannah Green, Grace Kim, Steph Kyriacou and Sarah Kemp are also teeing up this week.

Green and Kim qualified after also winning this season on the LPGA Tour, with Kim, 22, sitting second in the rookie-of-the-year race.

Kyriacou earned her spot after climbing from outside to inside the top 60 in the Race to Globe standings with a joint-fifth at last week's The Annika Championship in Florida.

For an Aussie to prevail this week, though, they must beat the hottest field of the year.

All four 2023 major champions - Frenchwoman Celine Boutier, dual major winner Lilia Vu, fellow American Allisen Corpuz and Chinese revelation Ruoning Yim - are competing.

So too are South Korea's two-time CME Group Tour Championship winner and former world No.1 Jin Young Ko, compatriot and rookie of the year Hae Ran Ryu and US sensation Rose Zhang, who won on her professional debut in 2023.