How to manage expectations on the golf course, according to an LPGA pro

Sandra Gal his a shot at last week's founders.

Sandra Gal watches a shot at last week's Cognizant Founders Cup.

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Sandra Gal recorded her best finish in over a year at last week’s Cognizant Founders Cup, and it would have been even better if not for a 77 that followed her opening-round 66.

But it hasn’t been an easy return for Gal. She took a medical leave in August 2019 due to Lyme disease and missed the cut in three of five starts in 2020. She missed the cut three more times to open 2021 before announcing in April she was going to extend her leave to get her energy levels improved and regain her strength and stamina.

She returned in September and missed a cut, but her first start since then, at the Founders Cup, led to a 71st-place finish. She’d say there’s still work to do, but her five-under 66 on Day 1 was her lowest round on tour since July 2019.

“How do I feel? Yeah, it’s improving. I’m getting there,” the 36-year-old Gal told reporters after that 66 last Thursday. “I think I’ve put a lot of work into all areas of my game and just my mental health. It’s a work in progress. I don’t think you’re ever really there. Everything is great, sunshine and rainbows. But you have a lot of great moments and then you have a few downs. You just kind of got to ride the wave and take the good things with you and keep improving.

“I thought I was ready enough to go play and I couldn’t keep postponing it, because I felt like I just got to face and see where I’m at again,” she continued. “Come out, play, perform and see where I’m at. But I think good markers are when I’m sleeping better, when I can sleep through the night. When I can have some good rounds in my practice sessions. When my swing feels kind of solid.”

Asked how Gal, who has earned over $4 million in her LPGA career and recorded 28 top 10s, manages her expectations after playing sparingly over the last couple of years, she said she keeps things simple.

“I probably play better if I don’t have expectations and just kind of let it happen, enjoy each shot,” she said. “I know it’s so cliche, but you want to kind of visualize winning or visualize playing great shots, but at the end of the day you got to also be out here and enjoy the process. I play better that way, if I just let it go a little bit and play for my own wellbeing.”

Jin Young Ko ended up winning the Founders, breezing to a five-stroke victory.

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Josh Berhow

Golf.com Editor

Josh Berhow is the managing editor at GOLF.com. The Minnesota native graduated with a journalism degree from Minnesota State University in Mankato. You can reach him at joshua_berhow@golf.com.