NORTON — Danny Lee has one more round to complete at TPC Boston. Lee cannot help but think, however, of what will come the day after Monday’s conclusion of the Deutsche Bank Championship.
On Tuesday, the rosters for the Presidents Cup will be named. As a New Zealander, Lee is eligible to make the international team. He is in a good position to do so.
Lee shot a 2-under-par 69 in Sunday’s third round. He enters Monday’s final round in tied for sixth at 8-under 205, five strokes behind leader Henrik Stenson, his Round 3 partner. Lee, 10th in the FedEx Cup standings, is also No. 10 in the international world golf rankings. The top 10 players following the DBC automatically qualify for the Presidents Cup.
Australian Steven Bowditch, the 11th-ranked international player, shot 76-73 in the DBC’s first two rounds and missed the cut. Given that Lee will gain more points on Monday while Bowditch will be idle, it’s a good bet the New Zealander will finish inside the top 10 and claim his automatic spot on captain Nick Price’s roster.
It’s not just the event that has appeal to Lee. It will take place Oct. 8-11 at Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea in Incheon, South Korea. Lee was born in Incheon and lived in South Korea until he was 11 years old. Grandparents and uncles are among Lee’s family members still living in South Korea.
“It would mean a lot to me,” Lee said of playing in the Presidents Cup in his birth country. “It was one of my biggest goals to make it all the way through the tour championship and make it into the Presidents Cup. Achieving two big goals in one year is not an easy thing to do. I have a chance for it. I’m very happy about it.”
That Lee is even in contention for either Cup is nearly beyond his belief. Before this season, Lee was winless on the PGA Tour. In 2012, his first Tour season, Lee made the cut in only half of his 26 events. The Tour rookie posted zero top-10s. He finished No. 159 in the FedEx Cup standings. Lee lost his Tour card.
He reclaimed his card in 2013 by finishing 15th in earnings on the Web.com Tour. Even though Lee scraped back onto the varsity circuit last year, he recorded just one top-10, a second-place finish at the Puerto Rico Open. Lee scored a T35 in last year’s DBC, his final event of 2014.
TPC Boston will not be the final course of Lee’s season, thanks to a scorching sprint in July and August that included his first career win. On July 5, Lee won the Greenbrier Classic in a playoff after shooting a 13-under-par 267.
The victory was the first of four top-10s in five events. He posted a T3 in the John Deere Classic the week after his Greenbrier win. Lee missed the cut at the British Open. But he shook off the disappointment with a T4 at the Quicken Loans National and a T6 at the Bridgestone Invitational.
Lee is coming off a T30 at The Barclays last week. Unless he falls off in Monday’s final round, no such fate is in his TPC Boston future.
On Sunday, Lee made seven birdies, including four on the first five holes. But Lee hit turbulence on the par-5 seventh hole, starting from the tee.
Lee’s first three landing spots were junk, rough, and sand. With his ball mangled from its touchdowns, Lee’s mind became speckled too. He walked away from No. 7 with a double bogey, a result that threatened to torpedo the rest of his day.
“After that hole, it seems like golf started to be tougher,” Lee said. “I was just grinding out there.”
Lee bogeyed No. 9. He recovered by making back-to-back birdies on Nos. 10 and 11. But Lee coughed up both strokes with consecutive bogeys on Nos. 12 and 13.
He closed out the last five holes with one birdie and four pars, including No. 18. On the final hole, Lee’s tee shot wobbled once more when he landed in a bunker. Four shots later, Lee saved his par by burying a 13-foot uphill putt.
“The sand here is very loose,” Lee said. “My caddie was telling me to lay up there. But I wanted to go for it. Good par, I guess.”