JOHNS CREEK, GEORGIA | There’s a lot to be said for perspective. When Lizette Salas shot a Sunday 65 in 2019 at the AIG Women’s Open only to lose by a shot when Hinako Shibuno rammed a closing birdie putt into the back of the final hole at Woburn, the 31-year-old American was self-critical.
“I didn’t like myself very much,” Salas admitted this week during the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. “It was hard for me to even speak about (my mental health struggles) just because I felt like other people are going through the same thing. Why do I need to feel sorry for myself? Over time, it accumulated and got worse. When I finally got out here, it was so bad that the golf couldn't help.”
Throughout the week at Atlanta Athletic Club, Salas not only looked like a more confident player, she appeared happier, and not just because she shot three consecutive rounds of 67 to enter the final round tied for the lead with Nelly Korda.
“When I finally unloaded the weight I was carrying to my team, first of all, that was a big turning point,” she said. “And I think being okay to be vulnerable and ask for help, I think that having that in my mind has been super helpful. Saying it this week was the right time to talk about it.
“I am really happy, and I think I'm just embracing and taking everything in.”
Salas came up short again in a major, shooting 71 on Sunday to finish alone in second, three shots behind Korda who had two eagles as part of an impressive final-round 68.
“A lot of positives. I’m just really grateful for everything.”
But this was a different Salas than the one who was moved to tears at Woburn.
“I'm extremely proud and I think my family and my team are extremely proud of me,” she said immediately after play on Sunday. “We came in with a goal and I think we exceeded it. I did what I planned to do. When things weren't going my way, I still said, ‘I'm OK.’
“Sure, there's a lot of emotion,” she said as she wiped away more tears. But she insisted that these were tears of joy. “I'm really grateful for being in this position and for fighting until the end.
“I was talking earlier about how I was tired of playing with that chip on my shoulder. Now I own that instead of running away from it. Yeah, I played great this week. And I think this is the start of something great.
“We racked up some Solheim Cup points. And the beautiful thing is there's two American flags on top of that leaderboard. A lot of positives. I’m just really grateful for everything.”