Their revelations come at a unique time as the world grapples with the fallout from a global pandemic that has fueled isolation, depression and anxiety. The best athletes in the world have not been spared these overwhelming feelings, either. And yet, Korda and Salas are at the top of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship standings and each enter the final round with a chance to win their first major title. Perhaps this is an opportunity that was only made possible with recent relief from the struggles they faced.
A week ago, Korda recorded his career low round with a par 62 of 10 under the Meijer LPGA Classic. It was after this round that Korda revealed the pressure she had put on herself and the joy she had lost on the golf course. Korda missed her first cup of the year at the US Women’s Open the week before and regrouped for a week off.
Watching the Men’s US Open, Korda said she was inspired by Bubba Watson and Matthew Wolff’s honesty about their own mental challenges. It was through their words that Korda found a renewed perspective that propelled her to victory at Meijer and into the fight for her first major.
“I always kept everything,” Korda said on Saturday after shooting 68 to sit tied with Salas at 15 under. “I never really showed too much emotion on the golf course. I like to keep it stable and not have a roller coaster. Inside, I’m on a pretty big roller coaster. But I think it feels good to let him out.
A first round 67 on Thursday gave Salas the confidence she needed to ease the year-long struggle she had faced to tackle anxiety on and off the golf course. Following her revelation, she received countless messages of support. Lexi Thompson, who suffered several difficult losses in major championships, contacted Salas to express her gratitude for his openness.
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“It brought me closer to who I really am,” Salas said of the challenges she has faced over the past year. “I think it just allows me to be myself on the golf course and play the golf I know how to play. “
Korda and Salas are not an anomaly. Celine Boutier, the third member of their squad on Saturday at the Atlanta Athletic Club, struggled with crippling anxiety while playing varsity golf at Duke University, to the point that she was unable to remove the club. Boutier won her first LPGA victory in 2019. Likewise, Madelene Sagstrom, who first revealed in 2017 that she was sexually assaulted as a child and suffered years of painful shame for her. -self, won for the first time in 2020. She shared her partnering with the LPGA again this year.
“There are days that are so much easier than others,” Korda said. “It’s kind of like an ongoing battle, I think, and you’re going to have that throughout your career. “
There is a freedom that comes from being oneself. Korda and Salas have only recently found out that this is true, and if a major win comes for either of them on Sunday, that in itself is a win.
“Whatever happens tomorrow, I’m just proud of everything I’ve overcome so far,” said Salas. “We’re just gonna take a hit [at a time] and continue to smile and be myself.