How this LPGA winner overcame a major distance deficit to beat the bombers
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No one would describe up-and-comer Andrea Lee as a bomber of the golf ball. But no one can take away one moniker she recently earned the hard way: LPGA Tour winner.
Lee ranks 154th in driving distance this season, which comes to an end in a little more than a month. Her 242-yard average trails Maria Fassi, the LPGA’s longest driver in 2022, by more than 35 yards.
Both players are 24 years old and just getting started in what should be promising careers. But Fassi, despite her tremendous length off the tee, has yet secure a victory. Not so for Lee, who fired a final-round 66 to win the AmazingCre Portland Classic a few weeks ago.
“All the hard work has paid off. It’s been my dream to win on the LPGA Tour,” Lee said after her big win. “The fact that I accomplished that today is just pretty surreal.”
So how did Lee overcome her massive distance deficit and claim the first LPGA victory? On Tuesday ahead of this week’s LPGA Mediheal Championship in California, the Los Angeles native explained her winning strategy, with a focus on flawless play on and around the greens.
“I’m definitely not one of the longer hitters out here, that’s for sure,” Lee told reporters on Tuesday. “My strengths are the approach shots into the green, and putting has definitely been a strength I think throughout the whole season. … I think this is probably the best putting season that I’ve had so far. So that’s definitely really helped.”
The stats back up Lee’s theory. She ranks 21st in putting this season, averaging 29.34 putts per round, just over one shot worse than the LPGA’s top-ranked putter this year, Yaeeun Hong.
She credits her success on the green to recent work with instructor Jim Gormley, who she started working with in November of last year, particularly on her putting setup.
“We’ve just kept it really simple, starting with the setup and kind of making sure that I putt on an arc, because that’s how I usually do,” Lee said, “but sometimes you can get it to go a little too straight back and too straight through. Which I have a tendency to push it out. Honestly, it all starts with the setup for me. He’s still corrects me on my setup even though I think I’m doing it right. Yeah, just keeping everything simple.”
As Lee sees it, quality putting is far more essential to success than being a long driver.
“Driving is only one shot out of 14 holes, or like you only hit driver 14 holes out of the 18. Obviously every aspect of my game needs to be sharp in order to contend out here. I think short game is probably 80% as compared to 20% driving and approach shots.”
It’s not just her prowess on the greens that led to her success, though. While she doesn’t drive the ball as long as many of her competitors, she drives it straighter than almost all of them, currently ranking 5th on the LPGA in driving accuracy.
“Even though I’m not the longest out here, I still manage to make it work and score,” Lee said, summarizing her winning strategy. “My mindset out there is just to hit fairways and greens and minimize the mistakes as much as possible.”
That’s a strategy that most recreational golfers would be smart to mimic.
The 2022 LPGA Mediheal Championship, the fifth-to-last LPGA event before the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship in November, kicks off on Thursday morning at The Saticoy Club.