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US golfer Lizette Salas opens up about mental health battle after taking Women’s PGA Championship lead

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US golfer Lizette Salas opened up about her mental health battle after taking a first-round lead at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.

The 31-year-old shot a five-under par 67 at the Atlanta Athletic Club on Thursday to take a one shot lead after the opening day of play.

Afterwards, Salas admitted that she has struggled with her mental health over recent months which has affected her game.

“I wanted to talk about this in the beginning of the year, but I wasn’t ready,” Salas said. “I wasn’t – I wanted to share this – my story and my process when I was confident enough to share.

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Salas plays her second shot on the ninth hole during the first round of the KPMG Women's PGA Championship.
Edward M. Pio Roda/Getty Images
Salas plays her second shot on the ninth hole during the first round of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.

“I guess now is the time to talk about it, and that’s okay. Everyone has their own timeline of sharing what they’ve gone through. And I’m not going to lie. I’m a little nervous even talking about it now, but it’s okay. And I’m in a much better place. Just happy to be here.”

She revealed her struggles began when the coronavirus pandemic struck in 2020.

Not having the ability to step onto the golf course and showcase her talents around the world “hit hard” for Salas.

And it showed in her results, as she played in 12 events after the LPGA Tour returned, failing to finish in the top-10 once.

“It’s been quite a roller coaster of emotion,” the world No. 45 said. “I really didn’t feel like myself in 2020, and I think with the whole Covid-19 and not being able to work and have golf as my outlet, that really hit hard.”

However, in 2021, she has found her way over recent weeks, finishing tied for fifth at the Pure Silk Championship in May and finishing tied for sixth at the Meijer LPGA Classic earlier in June.

And her stellar opening round on Thursday came on the back of an excellent driving performance, missing just two fairways in her opening 18 holes.

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Salas reacts to her putt on the ninth green during the first round.
Edward M. Pio Roda/Getty Images
Salas reacts to her putt on the ninth green during the first round.

“It was definitely not easy,” she said about the conditions. “We started with pretty wet conditions this morning, but the greens are rolling extremely pure. I had a really good warmup. I was really confident coming into this week, and I think my game really suits this golf course and kept it boring.”

Her bogey-free round meant she finished a shot ahead of Charley Hull in second place.

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