Minjee Lee falls just shy at British Open

Australia's Minjee Lee has finished third in the women's British Open at Royal Troon.
Australia's Minjee Lee has finished third in the women's British Open at Royal Troon.

Minjee Lee feels an elusive first career major is just around the corner after falling short during an action-packed final round of the women's British Open at Royal Troon.

Lee barely put a foot wrong in a third successive two-under-par 69 as unfancied German Sophia Popov penned a golfing Cinderella story with a nerveless two-stroke victory on the famous Scottish links.

Ranked 304th in the world and without any tour status, Popov's five-birdie round of 66 left her at seven under for the championship and $US675,000 ($A942,000) richer in a true life changer.

Displaying no signs of pressure despite the high stakes and unfamiliar territory, the 27-year-old kept Thai runner-up Jasmine Suwannupara, who closed with a 67, and third-placed Lee at bay all day.

"To be honest, Sophia played so well pretty much all day and whenever she looked like she was going to make bogey, she would make a par putt, and she made a lot of birdies out there. I didn't think anybody could have beaten her today," Lee said.

The 24-year-old West Australian was nevertheless encouraged by her best finish in 30 majors and is confident of breaking through soon.

"We have a couple more majors to end the year, so I think they are going to be big goals of mine to finish the year," said Lee, who posted just one bogey in 51 holes from the second round on Friday to one final slip-up at the last on Sunday when the trophy was already in Popov's keeping.

"If you said I would have finished second in a major championship, I'd take it any day."

A one-time world No.2 now ranked eighth, Lee has eight professional wins worldwide to her credit, including five on the LPGA Tour.

She couldn't have done much more to claim the biggest prize of all at Troon.

But there was no denying Popov.

The German's only blip of the day came at the first, where she took bogey after finding a bunker, leaving Lee to play catch-up all day.

The Australian birdied the fifth and sixth holes but never narrowed the gap to fewer than two shots as Popov repeatedly came up with answers.

The underdog birdied the second, third and sixth holes before striking her most decisive blow on the par-4 15th.

Fortunate to avoid the bunker off the tee, Popov hit a beautiful approach, then cashed in after getting a read on Lee's birdie putt from the same line to drain a 20-footer to extend her lead to four shots.

Lee and Suwannapura both replied with birdies on the 16th but Popov refused to yield, dropping another bomb herself to retain her commanding lead before sealing the deal on No.17.

Katherine Kirk was second best of the Australians, finishing six over for a share of 22nd place. Hannah Green was a shot back in 29th.

Australian Associated Press