Canada’s Alena Sharp has not had a very good year –a tie for 31st is her best finish–and a big part of the reason is that she has not been able to get off to good starts. By Round 2, she usually is trying to dig out of a hole just to make the cut.

That’s why Thursday at Atlanta Athletic Club was such a relief. The 40-year-old Sharp birdied four of her first five holes on the way to shooting an opening, 3-under 69. It marked the first time this season that she had broken 70 to open a tournament.

“It's been a tough season, and to start out well in a major is really important,” she said. “No matter how you're playing in the year. To come to this one and have a good start and just kind of now I can chill a little bit, and relax for tomorrow.

“I've kind of been behind after Round 1 having to play a really good Friday, so it's nice to have maybe a little bit more of a stress-free Friday coming up.”

Sharp also ran in downhill birdie putts on the par-3 17th (from 40 feet) and the par-5 18th to finish strongly. Putting has not been a strength this year. At one point, her coach from Canada visited and she worked on putting for 12 consecutive days. They changed her setup, and then reinforced with lots of reps.

“I think, if I'm being completely honest and being out there, there's a lot of things that have led to this putting flaw or whatever. I've gone through it before,” she said. “They call it the yips. I've experienced it, and I was feeling it a little bit last year and then I didn't really deal with it. I thought it would just go away. I turned 40 in the pandemic and it's just like all this stuff, worrying about my car, like all these things add to anxiety. My anxiety was so high at ANA.”

Sharp said she was nervous on the golf course on Thursday, too, so when she found she was getting too far “ahead” of herself, she started “taking deep breaths and listening to the birds.” She has been working with a pair of sports psychologists since April to help quell the anxiety she is feeling on the golf course.

“I have a lot of tools to get through it,” she said. “But accepting it's going to be that way in the back of my mind, but I have the tools to beat it. As long as I stay in the present and not focus so much on the future, it's manageable.”

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