Golf: Former golden boy picks Lee for Masters

By Craig Tiriana -

Two-time major winner Johnny Miller has labelled New Zealand's Danny Lee his "dark horse" in the field for this week's US Masters, the first major of the year.

The former golden boy of US golf, Miller said on Sky Television yesterday morning he "liked the look" of Lee and he was his "dark horse" in the field to win The Masters at Augusta National.

Miller is a member of World Golf Hall of Fame and has been the lead golf analyst for NBC since the late 90s.

He has won both the US and British Open tournaments and was being asked his opinion on the wave of talented teenagers who are set to appear in The Masters this week.

Miller said he liked the look of Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy, wasn't convinced by Japan's Ryo Ishikawa - but believed Rotorua's Lee could become the youngest player to win golf's opening major.

"I think he could head it after 72 holes," Miller said on air during the Houston Open coverage.

Lee is the current top-ranked amateur in the world - and being singled out by a judge like Miller further proves what a talent he is.

He has already won a professional event while an amateur, winning the co-sanctioned European and Asian tours' Johnnie Walker Championship this year.

He was the youngest winner to date on the European Tour, surpassing Dale Hayes and only the second amateur winner after Pablo Martin.

Lee is also the youngest winner of the US Amateur title - surpassing Tiger Woods for that record.

If he was to win the Masters, he would become the youngest winner in history, surpassing Woods again.

It's a big call by Miller. Only three players have ever won the event on their first appearance there: Horton Smith (1934), Gene Sarazen (1935) and Fuzzy Zoeller (1979).

It took Woods three attempts before he won - and the average is six appearances before winning a coveted Green Jacket.

No amateur has won, with Frank Stranahan (1947), Ken Venturi (1956) and Charles Coe (1961) all coming second.

Lee is in reasonable form.

Late last week he beat Holland's Reinier Saxton to win the Georgia Cup - an 18-hole matchplay event that pitches the US and British Amateur champions together.

Lee will turn professional immediately after the Masters.

He will play by invitation on the US PGA Tour, attempting to win his way through earnings or tournament wins to a permanent home there.

The Masters starts on Friday (NZT) and will finish on Monday.

Meanwhile, today sees the opening day of the New Zealand Left-handers' tournament in Rotorua.

The week-long event is being played at the Rotorua Golf Club.


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