As the season winds down, Lizette Salas’ year is just beginning.
For the second consecutive season, Salas is taking the Tour’s swing through Asia as a chance to hit the reset button on her year.
Fresh off a four-week break at home in California, Salas was fired-up to return to the Tour. She immediately picked up where she left off, having finished tied for fifth in Indy, she returned to action in Korea with a fourth place finished followed by a season best tie for third last week in Taiwan.
“It was almost like having a mini off-season, so after the third week I was really eager to come back and compete,” Salas told LPGA.com.
It was the same sentiment she echoed in 2016.
After missing the cut at the Evian Championship, Salas opened with a 68 in China to jump into the top-5.
“This is practice for next year, working on things that will help me get better for next season,” Salas said last fall, already turning her focus to 2017. It was a new putter and a new attitude that propelled her to the top of the leaderboard in China. But for a player notorious for swapping putters, the changes weren’t producing lasting results. By the end of 2016, Salas ranked 66nd in putts per G.I.R. and 62nd in putting average – stats she ranked in the top-20 the year before.
This year, it is once again a new attitude, and yet another new putter, that has helped Salas find success in the later half of the season. But what is different this time around is the result.
Unhappy with three top-10s in her first 12 starts, Salas sought to make changes before the season got away from her. In May, she put yet another putter in her bag.
“When I made the putter change at the Volvik Championship, that’s when everything fell into place.”
Salas finished fourth that week and the putter hasn’t left her bag. She’s since rebounded to 8th in putts per G.I.R. and 9th in putting average on Tour.
“I’ve had a hard time committing to a putter for the past two years, but this one is not leaving the bag,” Salas said. “I’ve enjoyed putting again and I’ve developed good drills and routines to where I can visualize better.”
Putting wasn’t the only part of her game she wasn’t enjoying. Over the last month, Salas regrouped with her coaches Joe Hallett and Jim Gormely in hopes of rediscovering the joy she had lost.
“The biggest thing I’ve worked on with both of my swing coaches is making things simple again. I had such a difficult year that I just wanted this game to get fun again.”
Salas got to work.
She spent her mini off-season doing her homework and talking with her coaches in order to better understand what she needed to do to improve. Hallett and Gormley made a few adjustments to her swing, which renewed Salas’ confidence, and in turn has helped her not only play better, but also enjoy the game again.
“They’ve not only helped me, but also called me out when I’m either slacking or being negative. I’m happy being out here competing and I’m confident where my game is at right now.”
Rediscovering that happiness has also come with believing in herself and her abilities. That was something she found in August at the Solheim Cup, where she won three points for Team USA.
“There’s a difference when you’re told you’re a good putter to actually believing it, and I definitely started to believe it after the Solheim Cup.”
Playing her way onto that team was Salas’ number one goal this year. Now with Solheim Cup behind her she’s turned her focus to winning again, something she hasn’t done since breaking through for her first victory in 2014.
“I want to be like the old Lizette again. Confident, fearless, a fighter and embrace everything,” Salas said. “Winning is a big task, and there’s a lot that has to fall into place, but I’ve come to learn that it’s not impossible for me.”
Anything is possible. After all, the year for Salas is just beginning.