The promising second-year Chinese player finished 81st on the money list as a rookie and was charting around the same trajectory over the first seven months of the season but over the last couple of months she’s gotten on a roll that doesn’t seem to be slowing down.
On a brutal day for scoring conditions in which the No. 1 and 2 players in the world, Lydia Ko and Inbee Park, combined to shoot 8-over-par, Lin’s recent ascent continued with a 5-under-par 67 to steal the first-round lead by one shot at the Blue Bay LPGA.
It’s the second time Lin’s held at least a share of the first-round lead. The first? Just three weeks ago at the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia, where she went on to post what at the time was a career best T7 finish. That personal best lasted only two weeks as Lin posted a T6 finish last week at the FUBON LPGA Taiwan Championship.
That career week could last only a week as Lin appears primed for an even higher finish this week. Her 5-under-par 67 came on a blustery day in which only 10 players broke par. It’s the LPGA’s only event in 2015 in China, and the local media was already asking when China’s second highest ranked player was expecting her first LPGA win. It may be this week, but she’s not getting ahead of herself.
“This year, I’ve been doing well, and I hope that I can finish in the top three,” Lin said. “And as far as a possible LPGA title of winning on the LPGA Tour here, I would like to go step by step. I don’t want to give myself pressure and I don’t want to think about that now.”
Lin, who is currently ranked 72 in the world, won a Ladies European Tour event on Hainan Island a year ago and won a CLPGA event in back-to-back years on Hainan Island and says the conditions are similar to her hometown of Guangzhou. That’s not the only feeling of home she’s got this week.
“I like Hainan a lot. Also, my mom is here this week, so I don’t really feel much pressure,” Lin said, “because I’ve been doing pretty good these last couple weeks. And my game’s pretty good as well.”
But what’s changed? She says it’s the putter. The numbers lay that out, too. Lin’s been a strong ball striker since she joined the Tour and ranks 18th in greens in regulation in 2015, but she’s ranked just 70th in putts per round. However, her putts per round over her last 13 rounds is just 29.15, which would rank 10th on Tour.
“I would say my putting because I worked with my coach a couple days before I came to Malaysia, so we worked on my putting and on the rhythm of my swing a little bit,” Lin said. “But I think the biggest improvement would be my putting because when I putt well, then I’m not going to feel that pressure when I’m chipping or when I hit it on the green. So I think my putter has really helped me a lot.”
It’s not just her putter that’s improved recently. Over her last six starts, she’s posted six consecutive top-30 finishes, and she’s hitting it like a top-10 player in the world at the moment. Her GIR rate over her last six – 75.69% - would put her at sixth on the Tour in GIR, and the percentage of fairways she’s hit has jumped up from 72% to 78% over this stretch. She says that all started at the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open and it improved even further when she got back to Guangzhou for a couple weeks after the Evian Championship in advance of her trip to Malaysia.
“As far as improvement, even before Malaysia, I feel that I’ve been very steady and improving myself, especially very stable in long putting,” Lin said. “However, after I got back, I also got some training with my coach and that really helped tremendously, especially with the mindset. It’s very stable.”
Only once in 2015 has a player outside of the top 50 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings won in 2015, but don’t be surprised if there’s a second come Sunday.