EVIAN LES-BAINS, France – Sandra Gal struggled with swing changes at season’s start and missed the cuts in the first three major championships of the year, but she’s making an early bid to trump that with a run at her first major title.
Gal opened the Evian Championship with a 5-under-par 66 Friday at Evian Resort Golf Club, equaling Se Ri Pak for the lead through the morning wave. Mika Miyazato finished the day atop the leaderboard, however, shooting 6-under 65 in the afternoon. Suzann Pettersen shot 66 in the afternoon, as well.
“I kind of knew it was coming,” Gal said. “I’ve been playing well the last few weeks. I just had to be patient, which I was.”
Gal’s struggles kept her from qualifying for the European Solheim Cup team. She said that wasn’t a motivating factor leading to her improved play, but she said she is highly motivated to make the next European team when the Solheim Cup is played in her German homeland.
“To be on that team is a must,” Gal said.
With her swing changes not working, Gal said she abandoned them and turned to Gary Gilchrist as her new coach in April.
“We simplified things,” Gal said.
“Sandra’s a lovely person, great disposition, happy go lucky, but she can put too much expectation on herself sometimes,” Gilchrist said. “Sometimes, it’s just about enjoying life and letting your natural talent shine.”
Gilchrist said they've worked on drills and a practice plan to keep her from overthinking her swing and becoming too technical.
Evian has always been a challenge for Gal. In three previous starts, her best finish is a T-50.
This is a new test this year with the Evian Resort Golf Club playing more difficult after a redesign. The course is playing longer, with the greens more undulating and challenging. Gal says she thinks the changes fit her.
“It’s very challenging and suits being the fifth major,” Gal said. “We all know the course needs to mature, but the changes are incredible, having made them in about nine months. I couldn’t picture it. The fact we are actually playing is a miracle.”