Lizette Salas Wins the Kingsmill Championship in Williamsburg
First you learn to play the game, and along the way, learn to control your emotions and nerves. Then, you learn to cope with better and better competition, and then you learn how to show up consistently among the better players. Then you learn to get into those cliffhangers, and win them. I’m sure there are a lot of other phases along the way, but I think Lizette Salas has gotten around to pretty much all of them.
It almost sounded as if Salas was taking a page from the zen approach of Michelle Wie and Yani Tseng, when she observed – “I was patient. I was happy, and I was ready.” Can’t beat that for a tournament attitude, or life, for that matter. Cool and calm seems to be the winning formula these days.
Many of us wondered when she would decide to put those four rounds together and win one of these tournaments. Most of us were pretty sure it would happen, and sooner rather than later. However, those of us who are Lizette Salas fans had to take extra pleasure in the fact that she didn’t hang on for a victory, or eke out a squeaker by somehow holding herself together in the final round. No, she did better than that. She showed up for her Sunday tee time ready to win the Kingsmill going away.
Coming into Sunday with a three-stroke lead is nice, but never a guarantee that you’ll still be there at the end of the day. Considering some of the competitors behind her, three strokes seemed even less of a margin. Hee Young Park was three back, enough said there. Stacy Lewis and Lydia Ko were five back, and even five seemed vulnerable, considering what they can do on any given Sunday. Then Yani showed up.
In stretching her lead during the day, Salas proved that she was one of them, that she could hang with the superkids and the former champions. She has grown into a talent that can put together a winning mentality against the best.
Reading about victories each week, some just read as news stories. Others, as in the case of Lizette Salas, read a little like golf lessons. She says that she “stepped back and looked at golf differently,” after missing a recent cut. Going back to her putting game, she took another look at the gizmo her father put together to help her with line, what she describes as an “L-looking stick.” It keeps the putter head closer to the ground, and gives her line-up confidence. Statistically, it was pure gold – Salas went around four days of golf at 113 putts – a straight two-putt average would be 144, and it doesn’t matter what else you’re doing – if you’re not putting, you’re not winning.
Salas has moved up to the tenth position, and that rating will probably continue to rise. Speaking of scary competition, there was Yani Tseng looking like Yani Tseng often used to look. She moved up twelve places, and a suddenly explosive Sarah Jane Smith moved up sixty.
Lizette Salas is officially out of the runner-up crowd, after four close calls in the last two years. She’s near the top too often to be dismissed, and now we know she has the nerve to take it away once she gets the chance. The first “first-time” winner for a couple of years now, the Vegas oddsmakers might want to look at a few of the upcoming majors a little differently after this week. Lizette has figured it out, and has arrived.