DUBAI — Indian amateur Minjee Lee gave golf fans in the Middle East a lesson in patience over the final three holes Sunday at the Saudi Ladies International.
The 25-year-old golfer from New South Wales, Australia, held the final group and virtually a three-shot lead with an approach into 15 feet and a par for a one-under 70.
Marianne Vos of the Netherlands, who had begun the final round in second, bogeyed her second and three times failed to make birdie for a 70 to give Lee the outright lead she would not relinquish.
Vos was the only player in the 20-player field to stay even-par or better through the afternoon, but she was unable to match Lee, who shot two birdies and one bogey in nine holes on the back nine, except for the par-3 14th hole.
The rattled Vos, 31, missed a 3-footer for par to give Lee a one-shot advantage. But the Dutchwoman said she didn’t plan to spend a lot of time with Lee after the round.
“She needs a couple of days to calm down,” Vos said. “I think this will give her a lot of confidence.”
Vos was outpaced by Lee, who is being coached by Tabitha Peterson, when they played in the rain at the TPC Royal Greens. Lee was less erratic as she found the fairway on most of the back nine, while Vos had to get creative to stay close.
The stroke-play event for international amateurs and wives of Saudi golfers was played at Royal Greens Golf Club, a European-style design.
Lee said she was happy to have put the spotlight on golf.
“This tournament will be on the agenda for years to come,” she said. “It has been a lot of fun, so much tradition, and we have had a lot of great golfers play here, and great golfers compete here.
“These guys were in the Olympics. It’s a big part of Saudi golf and one day I’m sure these guys will be in majors, and I would love to see them do well. I’ve always had great respect for golf in general.”
The men’s tournament begins Sunday, with Kajsa Bergqvist of Sweden, playing as an amateur, taking the lead going into the final round.
The field includes British pros Richard Finch and Sam Horsfield, as well as Qatari and South African regulars Abdelrazik Kamali and Rory MacDonald.
Horsfield won the first two rounds and held a four-shot lead until taking double bogey on the par-3 12th hole on Saturday, then dropping a shot on 13 with a bogey.
“Today was probably the worst day of golf I’ve played in a long time,” Horsfield said. “It’s never a good time to drop a shot, two shots on 12 and 14 is pretty bad. I lost a little bit of concentration, but bounced back and managed to birdie two holes on the back nine.
“I think I’m going to have to make up ground tomorrow. I’m not going to win the tournament, but I want to shoot better than 1-over.”
Horsfield was in the group behind Lee and Vos. He seemed wary of the all-American pairing of Ryder Cup rookie Justin Thomas and Lee-Velda.
“I know a lot of guys in the mix, and one of the funny things is today I was watching Tiger Woods for about 30 minutes, and I was actually watching Lee-Velda, and I don’t know if I should have watched Tiger. I wasn’t paying attention.
“She doesn’t have any superstitions, but at the end of the day, she’s got the least amount of golf in the group. She said when she first came here, you’ve got to go for the good ones. Maybe that’s the case.”