Back to Back 67’s for Lizette Salas, 1-shot back of Korda
First round leader, Lizette Salas, played another blemish free round today on the Highlands Course at Atlanta Athletic Club on her way to posting another round of 67 (-5 under). She is the sole remaining player to not record a bogey or greater over the two days so far. As good as her round was yesterday, today’s was even better. Her ball-striking was exceptional today as she finished her round having hit every single green in regulation, going 18 for 18. If there was any room for retrospection and lamenting lost opportunities, Salas was having none of it.
“I'm definitely satisfied. We came in with some goals, and we're reaching them. I think overall my attitude has been pretty solid. It's a major; it's supposed to be tough. It's supposed to test you in several different ways, and I think I'm handling it quite well, and back-to-back 67s, I'm not going to complain. I can go ahead and start analyzing my game and what could have happened, but at the same time I've done a lot of good things, and I think this is good momentum going into the weekend.”
After sharing her heartfelt experience at yesterday’s media interview, Salas received an outpouring of messages offering support and positive thoughts – so much so that she wound up turning her phone off so that she could rest and focus.
“You know, I'm very grateful for all the support and the positivity that came from yesterday. Honestly, I had to shut off my phone for a little bit and kind of have some "me" time and really just kind of digest what had happened. I'm just very grateful and happy where I am right now. Whatever happens this weekend, it is what it is, but we're going to go to work, and we're going to have some fun. We're just going to play Lizette golf this weekend.”
Nelly Korda's 63 (-9) Ties Tournament Record
In many instances, perhaps even most instances, when a player records back to back scores of 67 in the first 36 holes of a major championship, that player would be at the top of the leaderboard. And that would have been the case for Lizette Salas had her fellow Solheim Cup teammate from 2019 not shot the lights out on Friday. Nelly Korda’s 63 (-9 under) on Friday equalled a tournament record for low score in a round at the KPMG Women’s PGA.
While she struggled a little off the tee box in finding fairways (6 of 14), it did not come back to harm her at all. Her ball-striking being as strong as it is meant she was able to recover admirably, finding 16 of 18 Greens in Regulation. The most noticeable difference in today’s round compared to Thursday’s was that she seemed to capitalize on her scoring opportunities, converting her 16 GIRs into 10-birdies versus 4-birdies yesterday despite 15 GIRs with one bogey today and two yesterday.
As for an explanation in the difference and how she was able to go low today, Korda likened it to “blacking out”, that state of consciousness often referred to as “playing in the zone”, when everything seems to come naturally and without much thought. On the greens, some have also described it as feeling like the hole was as big as a manhole cover – putts just couldn’t miss.
“I don't know (what the difference was), I guess I just blacked out, out there. Actually, the one on 17, No. 8, was the highlight of my round. I pushed my drive out right, and I was near a root, so I wasn't even sure if I could hit it. Thankfully, I hit just the top of it. It's so scary when you have those types of shots. To drain a long putt was nice, too.”
Korda has been going through a stretch of playing good golf these past few weeks, posting a 62-last week at the Meijer Classic enroute to a win in Michigan. A month earlier, she posted a 63 at the Lotte Championship in Hawaii, as Korda becomes more comfortable with the low rounds. Though this isn’t the first stretch where she has played like this – in the zone.
“When I won in Australia the year, I think of 2019, I had a lot of top 10s in a row at the start. I actually lipped out on 18 in Arizona to get into a playoff. It's nice when you're on top of your game and everything is going well, but you also have the roller coasters.”
Another aspect that Korda picked up on in trying to explain why she played so well today was that she happened to be in a really good group with Georgia Hall (2018 AIG Women’s Open champion) and Lydia Ko (2-time major winner).
“Yeah, I love Lydia and I love Georgia. They're a lot of fun to play with, and it was actually funny because Georgia was making putts on top of me, and I'm like, why don't you give me the tee box. Honestly, when you play with players like that and you have a fun time, even the bad shots are not as bad.”
As for looking into the weekend and playing in the final groups, Korda has, at times, struggled in the past, unable to put together a round where she could pull away from the field. Playing in final groups on a weekend places a player in a more intense situation as each shot becomes magnified in both importance and scrutiny. Yet, Korda will try to maintain her focus, playing each shot as it comes, not getting ahead of herself in her thoughts , while trying to maintain some perspective that golf is meant to be enjoyable.
“I mean, you want to take that kind of mindset into every round. Some days it's a lot easier than others, and some days you're just not having a good day, honestly, and your mental game and everything is just bad. But, obviously that's the mindset I want to take into every single day.”
Both Korda and Salas will be playing in the last group on Saturday, teeing off at 10:45 a.m. along with Celine Boutier.