SOUTHERN PINES, N.C. — Minjee Lee of Australia won the U.S. Women’s Open by four strokes over Mina Harigae at Pine Needles on Sunday to earn $1.8 million, the largest payout in the history of women’s golf.
Lee closed Sunday’s final round with an even-par 71 to finish at 13-under 271 for the tournament after having flirted with the tournament record of 16 under set by the American Juli Inkster in 1999 at Old Waverly Golf Club in Mississippi.
“I mean, I’m speechless,” Lee said. “I can’t believe it right now. No, it’s just super, super special and just a great honor. It’s been my dream since I was a little girl. It’s the one that I always wanted to win on; now I’ve done it, and just feels amazing.”
Lee’s winnings came from a record $10 million purse.
“We’re only moving in the right direction,” Lee said. “I think it’s only going to get better and better from here. It’s such a large sum, and I’m really honored to be the first winner I guess of this sum. We’re only going to get better and better.”
Harigae shot a 72 for her best finish in a major tournament and earned a check of slightly more than $1 million.
Although she knew she had no chance to win down the stretch, Harigae said it was still stressful knowing that $1 million — a larger payout than what the winner makes at most L.P.G.A. Tour events — was at stake.
“I’m not going to lie, my stomach hurt the last couple holes coming down the stretch,” Harigae, 32, said. “I was really stressed out, but I was really just focusing on one shot at a time, making solid contact, and just hitting good putts.”
South Korea’s Hye-Jin Choi was one of only two players to break par Sunday, carding a 70 to finish third at 7 under.
South Korea’s Jin Young Ko, No. 1 in the women’s golf rankings, finished fourth at 6 under, seven shots back of the lead after a 71. Lydia Ko was at 5 under after a 72.
Ingrid Lindblad, the Louisiana State University player from Sweden, was the low amateur at 1 under, tying for 11th after a 76.
Lee, 26, was never challenged on a course that played significantly tougher on Sunday than it did the previous three days. She opened with rounds of 67, 66 and 67.
Lee became the sixth straight international player to win the U.S. Women’s Open and the first from Australia since her mentor, Karrie Webb, won in 2001. It was her second career victory at a major championship after winning the Evian Championship last July. Her previous best finish at the U.S. Open was a tie for 11th in 2017.
Lee, who entered the week ranked No. 4, has won eight LPGA Tour events and became the first repeat winner this year following her victory at the Founders Cup three weeks ago in New Jersey.
Lee entered the final round with a three-stroke lead over Harigae and had said after the third round that her goal was to continue to stay aggressive and make birdies.
She lived up those goals early, birdieing the first two holes to move to 15 under and take a five-stroke lead over Harigae.
She stumbled a bit with bogeys on the fifth and seventh holes, but she was still able to make the turn at even-par 35 and with a four-stroke cushion when Harigae also bogeyed the seventh. The lead increased to five strokes after Harigae bogeyed the par-4 11th hole, all but sealing Lee’s win.
Lee then knocked in a bending 9-foot birdie putt on No. 12 to push the lead to six, prompting her to pump her arm in celebration. She appeared in distance of Inkster’s record when she got to 15 under after a birdie on the par-5 15th hole, but closed with two bogeys.
Harigae didn’t make her first birdie until the 15th hole.
Nelly Korda closed with a 73 on Sunday to tie for eighth in her first tournament since undergoing surgery to treat a blood clot in her left arm.
“The first week back you have rust, right, so you don’t really expect much from your game,” said Korda, the world’s No. 2 player. “You don’t know where your game is at. Knowing that I can play on a really tough golf course at a major and even kind of be in contention is definitely a positive.”