Golf: Danny Lee hoping for a golden year

By Cameron McMillan

Danny Lee hits from the first tee during a rain shower at the Tournament of Champions golf pro-am. Photo / AP
Danny Lee hits from the first tee during a rain shower at the Tournament of Champions golf pro-am. Photo / AP

Olympic gold, a major golf win, a Halberg Award. All are possible for Danny Lee as he returns to the PGA Tour today following a break-out season in 2015.

Lee has the Rio de Janeiro Olympics and four majors on his radar as he opens the year at the Tournament of Champions at the Plantation Course at Kapalua in Hawaii.

The 25-year-old had a career year in 2015 with eight top 10s and a maiden tour win at The Greenbrier Classic in July. He finished the year ranked ninth in the FedEx Championship and currently sits 47th in the world, two numbers he hopes to improve on over the next 12 months.

"My goal this year is to finish a little bit better than I did last year. I think it's a tough one but I think it's a great goal to set," he told Radio Sport.

Lee played an impressive 36 events last year, making the cut in 24 of them, but plans on reducing the number of tournaments he enters with the added luxury of automatic entries to the biggest events of the year.

"I definitely don't think I can play that many tournaments this year...I can but I don't think I will. I'm going to be smarter about it.

"I have a better chance to finish higher and play all the majors. I know I can play in all of them so I can prepare to play in all of the majors this year and plus I get to play in all of the World Golf Championship events which is exciting."

Lee played three of the four majors last year, missing the cut at the US Open and Open Championship before finishing tied for 43rd at the PGA Championship. He has already gained entry to the Masters in April for the first time since his major debut as an amateur in 2009.

It will still be another busy year for Lee with the Olympics being added to the golf season for the first time. Lee will be New Zealand's male representative at Rio de Janeiro, a rare chance to represent his country.

"That's going to be a fun week, I'm really looking forward to the Olympics this year. It means I get to represent my country and hopefully I'll do great and bring a gold medal home," Lee said.

Lee also has a chance to win a Halberg Award after being named as a finalist alongside All Black Daniel Carter, Black Cap Kane Williamson and Indy Car champion Scott Dixon.

The last event he played was the unofficial Franklin Templeton Shootout in Florida before Christmas where he finished seventh with a final round 62. The Tournament of Champions includes all the winners of the 2015 season which means a smaller field of around 33 players. Lee said field size produces some more risk-taking golf.

"It's less pressure when we all know we get to play all four rounds and I think we can be a little bit more aggressive about it."

Lee tees off with American world number eight Dustin Johnson at 11.20am NZT.

- NZ Herald

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