Minjee Lee captures the 2022 Aon Risk Reward Challenge—and $1 million prize!

It’s been a storybook season on the LPGA Tour for Minjee Lee.

The 26-year-old from Perth, Australia added two titles to her collection, the U.S. Women’s Open presented by ProMedica and Cognizant Founders Cup, plus four other top-10 finishes. The two-time major winner also earned the Rolex Annika Major award, which is given annually to the LPGA Tour player with the best cumulative finish in the five majors. She wasn’t done yet. Lee, the fifth-ranked player in the world, most recently captured the Aon Risk Reward Challenge, the season-long competition spotlighting the best decision makers on Tour. Lee joined Scottie Scheffler from the PGA TOUR, taking home the Aon trophy and $1 million prize.

Winning the Aon Risk Reward Challenge required grit, strategic preparation, savvy decision making and impressive execution.

Lee led the race to $1 million for much of the summer and fall. But, Atthaya Thitikul, the world’s No. 2-ranked player, and Xiyu Lin, the 19th-ranked golfer, gained ground late in the season, which set up the climactic three-way duel at the season’s final two regular-season tournaments.

A quick refresher: One hole per Tour event is earmarked for the Challenge. The players’ two best scores on the hole count toward the year-long competition. The player with the lowest cumulative score under par throughout the season captures the winner-take-all prize.

Aon, a leading global professional services firm, created the Aon Risk Reward Challenge alongside the PGA TOUR and LPGA Tour in 2019, and, each year, the company awards the equal $1 million prize money to the winner across both Tours.

The penultimate tournament on the LPGA Tour, the TOTO Japan Classic, was held at Seta Golf Course. The Aon Risk Reward Challenge hole, No. 13, is a 476-yard par-5. Two bunkers hug the right side of the fairway while a half-dozen others protect the front of the green. After the tee shot, players and their caddies must make a decision to go for the green in two or lay up: hitting the green in two means a putt for eagle but missing the green could result in a tricky long-bunker shot. On the other hand, laying up to a specific yardage might be the better choice, with the possibility of sticking a short-iron approach close for a realistic birdie opportunity. Navigating complexity, and making better decisions, is exactly what Aon helps clients’ do every day.

In Round 1, Lee recorded an uncharacteristic bogey on No. 13 while Thitikul, the 19-year old phenom from Thailand, made birdie. Lin didn’t play in the event. But she’d get her opportunity the next week.

Both Lee and Thitikul made birdie on No. 13 in Round 2. After hitting driver into the fairway, Lee chose to go for the green in two, a strategy that she relied on throughout the year. In fact, she went for the green 57% of the time on Aon Risk Reward Challenge par-5s, with a success rate of 44%. One reason for the high rate of success? She hit a remarkable 84% of the fairways on the Challenge holes. This time, the 5-wood shot into the green wound up 25 feet from the pin. Lee was able to secure the two-putt birdie and regain a foothold on the championship.

In Round 3, Lee made birdie with a good up-and-down from 40 yards while Thitikul recorded a par. The stage was set. Thitikul needed an eagle on No. 13 in the final round to tie Lee for the top spot. Starting the round on the back nine, Minjee parred No. 13. A couple of hours later, with the Aon Risk Reward Challenge hanging in the balance, Atthaya settled for birdie. For the week, both players posted scores of -2 (two birdies) in the competition.

Lee had fought off the nearest challenger in dramatic fashion.

At the beginning of the [TOTO Japan Classic] week, Lee’s caddie asked if she wanted to know the different scenarios for winning. “I didn’t want to know,” she said (chuckling). “But I got tagged on Twitter about the scenarios so I already knew what the possible outcomes would be. Regardless, I was going to do my very best. That’s always my mindset.”

Neither golfer played in the final regular-season event, the Pelican Women’s Championship, in Belleair, Florida. That meant Xiyu Lin’s performance would determine the 2022 Aon Risk Reward Challenge Champion. She needed two eagles on the Challenge hole to win the title. A very tall order, but not impossible.

At Pelican Golf Club, the 529-yard par-5 14th hole took center stage. The Challenge hole has fairway bunkers that narrow the landing area off the tee, bunkers well short of the green, and one bunker tucked directly in front of the putting surface. Lin made rock-steady decisions and executed her plan but could only muster a pair of pars.

Minjee Lee, also an Aon ambassador, had captured the most-tightly contested Aon Risk Reward Challenge yet. (Fellow Perth native, Hannah Green, was the 2021 champion.) “It’s great what Aon is doing [same prize for the PGA TOUR and LPGA Tour winners]. There are not many opportunities where we get to play for the same type of money. This closes the gap and is life-changing money that Aon puts up,” Lee said.

Jennifer Bell, Chief Executive Officer, North America at Aon, gets the final word. “The equal support of the PGA and LPGA Tours underpins our commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. That’s what we’re all about. So, we’re excited to congratulate Minjee on joining Scottie Scheffler as this year’s Aon Risk Reward Challenge Champion on the LPGA Tour,” said Bell. “Minjee demonstrated the clarity and confidence needed to make better decisions in the moments that matter most. This season really came down to the wire, and we are thrilled to award Minjee with the Aon trophy and $1 million prize.”

Learn more about the Aon Risk Reward Challenge here.

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek