After 64, Danny Lee admits it's not 'always fairytales and unicorns' on Tour

danny lee golf Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports

After 64, Danny Lee admits it's not 'always fairytales and unicorns' on Tour

Golf

After 64, Danny Lee admits it's not 'always fairytales and unicorns' on Tour

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FARMINGDALE, N.Y. – A back injury in the second FedExCup Playoffs event in 2017 sent Danny Lee to the ground at Conway Farms north of Chicago. The next morning, he said he couldn’t move his legs.

“I never had that kind of injury before, so I was freaking out and was telling my wife, ‘OK, are we going to open up a Korean barbecue restaurant now?’ And she’s like, ‘Hell no,’” Lee said.

While the injury – he tore a ligament between his L4 and L5 discs – ended his 2017 season and plagued him for months, the Lees never did open a restaurant. Instead, Lee continued living out his dream of playing on the PGA Tour, although the ups and far more downs have taken a taxing toll.

“It’s not always fairytales and unicorns out here,” Lee said.

Well, it was in Thursday’s first round of the 101st PGA Championship, as Lee took it to 7,406-yard Bethpage Black with a 6-under-par 64. Needing just 21 putts and making just two bogeys, Lee stood just one shot behind pace-setter Brooks Koepka at day’s end.

MORE: Leaderboard | Round 2 tee times | TV info

Lee, 28, had a standout amateur career that included victories in the 2008 U.S. Amateur at Pinehurst and in the 2009 Johnnie Walker Classic on the European Tour but has won just one PGA Tour event, the 2015 Greenbrier Classic. He said he took advantage of his newfound length to post a great number.

Working with his team, especially coach George Gankas, Lee has learned to make a bigger turn on his backswing and use the ground as a force more. He’s also learned his swing doesn’t have to be perfect all the time to hit fairways.

“At first, I wasn’t hitting it far enough to compete out here in the major championships – the PGA Championship or U.S. Open,” Lee said. “But now I’m definitely hitting it further. I can carry my driver about 290, 295 in the air. That’s a huge bonus for me. And that was actually the first time I actually got to play in a major with this distance.

“I’m actually interested in myself what I can do out there this week.”

So is his family – Lee travels with his wife, mother-in-law and daughter, Roi Theodore, who was born in October 2018. His family grounds him as he continues to grind on the PGA Tour.

“I know my family is sacrificing out there for me to chase my dream out here,” Lee said. “Sometimes I feel like I’m a bad person when I play bad because I didn’t do what I’m supposed to do. But I don’t get as frustrated when I have a bad round. I definitely learn how to just laugh it off and put it behind me.

“I wasn’t able to do that before.”

Well, his family enjoyed a good laugh after the first round.

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