SCOTTSDALE, ARIZONA – FEBRUARY 08: Alex Rodriguez stands with K.H. Lee on the 16th tee during the 2023 Annexus Pro-Am prior to the WM Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale on February 08, 2023 in Scottsdale, Arizona. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Korean star K.H. Lee warmed up for a title assault at this week’s star-studded WM Phoenix Open by being in the illustrious company of American baseball legend Alex Rodriguez, known better as A-Rod, on Wednesday.

The 31-year-old Lee returns to TPC Scottsdale’s Stadium Course in Arizona with plenty of fond memories following a tied second finish here in 2021, and his preparation for the US$20 million showpiece was significantly boosted when he played alongside Rodriguez in the pro-am.

“It was amazing. He’s an amazing guy, super nice and people love him. Every hole, there are a lot of people with him. I’m a fan. It was really exciting. He’s super athletic, has power … got so much power which I like to see,” said Lee.

Lee is hoping to harness his own power to challenge for a third PGA TOUR title. Two years ago, he was in the thick of battle at TPC Scottsdale before settling for a joint runner-up finish.

It provided the launch pad for a career breakthrough as he won the AT&T Byron Nelson a few months later. The amiable Korean was also the first-round leader in Phoenix last year following an opening 65 before finishing T38.

As the second designated event on TOUR, the top-10 players on the current FedExCup standings and 22 of the top-25 players in the world, led by World No. 1 Rory McIlroy and defending champion Scottie Scheffler, will highlight a stellar field at TPC Scottsdale.

Lee feels ready to step up on the plate and shine against the stars.

“I like playing against strong fields, like seeing a lot of great guys,” said Lee, who has two top-10s this season including a tied seventh at the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii last month.

“Love this tournament, a lot of fans, and Hole Nos. 16, 17 and 18 are amazing. It’s like a super big stadium, especially on 16. You get nervous but if you have a great shot, it’s an amazing feeling.

“I played well here two years ago. A lot of good memories for sure. I remember putting good that week. I’ll try to hit more greens and hit good putts. My main focus will be to get the putter to work. I had an off week and worked on my iron shots and tee ball, and focussed on shot-making,” said Lee, who is currently ranked 42nd on the FedExCup standings.

As the oldest player amongst a Korean quartet who have enjoyed multiple success on the PGA TOUR recently and featured together in the Presidents Cup last year, Lee said he now feels totally at ease playing alongside the game’s biggest names. Compatriots Tom Kim and Si Woo Kim have already won this season, and Lee is hoping to join them soon.

“Playing with JT (Justin Thomas), Scottie (Scheffler) … previously two years ago, I did not have much experience, but now I’m getting more confidence playing with these guys,” he said.

“We now have a lot of great Korean guys and every week, we are playing well. We’ve got Sungjae (Im), Tom and Si Woo, and there’s very good competition amongst us and we are cheering each other. I’m very happy with this and it’s very good for us.”

The WM Phoenix Open, which this week marks its 88th playing, is the fifth oldest on TOUR and is renowned as the world’s largest zero-waste sporting event through efforts including recycling, composting, donating, reusing and creating energy.

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