Angel Yin is chasing Minjee Lee…again.
Last year, Yin sat at T4 and six shots behind Lee going into the final day of competition at Upper Montclair Country Club. Though she didn’t come out with a win, Yin’s T3 result was her best finish of 2022.
Saturday, Yin carded a 4-under 68 – her best round of the week – to leapfrog from T7 to T2, sitting at 9-under with just 18 holes left to play at the Cognizant Founders Cup.
Though it might seem like history is repeating itself, things are very different this time around. For one, Yin is just three shots behind Lee – a much easier gap to close. But most importantly, Yin is finally happy to be on the golf course again.
“I think really this year I was more happy on the golf course,” Yin said. “Even last year there were moments where it was very volatile and I’m not really enjoying it on the golf course. I’ll play nine holes and get really bored or step on the first tee and get really bored. You can’t really get bored with your job, then you have to do something else.
“It’s nice to just be enjoying it, because I know the moments when you don’t enjoy it, it’s just such a grind. It’s like even when you get a birdie it’s not that exciting.”
Then she smiled and laughed, “But birdies are really exciting.”
It’s easy to see the effect a little sprinkle of happiness has already had on Yin’s game. This time last year, Yin had made just four cuts in eight starts and didn’t crack the top 20 until her tie for third at the Cognizant Founders Cup. So far, Yin has missed just one cut in four starts in 2023 and already has her first top 10 of the season: a runner-up result at the Chevron Championship.
Yin shot 10-under at The Club at Carlton Woods, buoyed by a third round, 5-under 67, to earn a playoff spot against Lilia Vu. Though she wasn’t able to don the Chevron cowboy boots or hoist the trophy, Yin was overwhelmingly positive about the loss.
“I’ve just come a long way,” she said. “I’m just really happy with who I am, where I am, and what I’m doing right now.
“I’m just really happy that I’m able to play golf, honestly. To be able to post scores like this, that to me is beyond anything that is happening right now.”
Though she has more enthusiasm for the game than ever, Yin will have to put that aside tomorrow if she wants to catch up to Lee this time. The deceptive greens and unpredictable rough of the Upper Montclair rewards the cool, calculated and patient – which is exactly the tact Yin took Saturday and plans to take again tomorrow.
“I think this course really tests you to be patient, play your shots,” Yin said. “If you are not 100% there, then it bites you back real quick. The birdies are not easy, either.
“The greens are not very easy. There are certain holes where it’s very gettable and the rest of them you’re just fighting to make par.”
But then again, maybe that little bit of happiness will be the X-factor Yin needs to get over the hump and catch up to Lee this year. Maybe one more smile will put one more birdie on her card.