Golf

‘I was proud of how I hung in, I could have blown myself out after the first three holes’ – Maguire digs deep to remain in LPGA hunt

Leona Maguire produced one of her trademark grinding performance as she fought back from three opening bogeys to remain in the hunt at the LPGA Mediheal Championship in San Francisco.

eading by a shot overnight, it could have spiralled out of control for the Co Cavan battler (26), but she dug deep on the tough Lake Merced layout and chiselled out a one-over 73 that left her tied for second place with Lauren Kim, just on stroke behind world No. 6 Danielle Kang.

“I suppose I could have blown myself out after the first three holes,” admitted the Slieve Russell touring professional, who struggled with her irons but made up for her mistakes with some key par saves and clutch putting.

“I really hung in there, picked up a few birdies, which was nice, and got myself back into the tournament.

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“There is a lot of golf still to be played. It’s a tough golf course. There are going to be bad holes, so I’m proud of how I battled today. I think on this course, it’s sometimes the bogeys you don’t make rather than the birdies you do.”

Maguire made nine birdies in a stunning, seven-under 65 on the opening day, and she was glad to have those shots in the bank in tougher afternoon conditions yesterday.

“I made enough birdies yesterday, and it’s a case of keeping as many bogeys off the card today as I could,” she said.

The pride of Ballyconnell dropped shots at the first three holes before she turned things around and followed birdies the seventh and ninth with great par saves at the eighth and 10th before playing the remaining holes in level par.

After dropping a shot at the 11th, she birdied the par-three 12th, then birdied the par-five 15th before making a great bogey at the 16th, where she was short-sided on a downslope and went from bunker to bunker but got up and down for an excellent five.

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“Yeah, I got off to a rough start and bogeyed my first three holes,” she admitted. “But I’m really proud of how I hung in there and battled back and holed some really nice putts and got some really nice up and downs and keep the round going. Kept myself in the tournament.”

With another year of LPGA Tour experience under her belt, she knew what to do when the bogeys started mounting up.

“I suppose that a little bit more experience knowing to stay patient and bide my time for those chances,” she said of the difference. “That’s golf. There is going to be days like that. You’re not always going to hit the perfect shots. Yeah, I was proud of how I hung in and didn’t let it spiral down and just put up a big number today.”

Lake Merced is one of the toughest stops on the LPGA Tour, and that suits Maguire’s never-say-die style as she seeks a maiden LPGA Tour win that could propel her to a Solheim Cup debut later this year.

“I just had to be patient,” she said of the test. “It’s a tough golf course. If you hit shots offline and miss greens, it makes it really tricky. I’m just trying to focus on hitting fairways and greens and trying to take advantage of the par-5s.”

With her twin sister Lisa and former Duke teammate, the Slovenian Ana Belac with her this week, she’s been able to relax off the course, even heading to the Golden Gate Bridge for sightseeing.

She’s also hoping for some tips after struggling with her irons.

“Yeah, it’s nice,” she said. “Lisa hasn’t been out in like a year and a half, so it’s nice to have her here supporting me. I’m sure she will have some pointers for me after the round today.

“I think I’ll go to the range now and hopefully straighten out my irons, and yeah, try and give myself as many chances as I can tomorrow and back to how I was playing yesterday.

“It was a struggle to start out. I hit two really poor iron shots and — well, three poor iron shots really.

“So I just tried to get back to basic, hitting fairways and hitting greens. It can get away from you pretty quickly out here if you don’t do that. I’m not quite sure what I’m doing with my irons. I need to go over to the range for a little bit to figure that out. But, yeah, I just tried to stay really patient and bide my time.”

Kang fired seven birdies in a six-under 66 to lead by a shot from Maguire and Kim, who shot 69, on seven-under with the top 19 on the leaderboard covered by just four shots.

But there was no joy for Jordanstown’s Stephanie Meadow, who followed her opening 80 with a 75 to miss the cut by seven shots.

“Obviously, Danielle knows what she’s doing, so I’ll try and play as well as I possibly can at the weekend to give myself as many chances, hopefully, make a run for it,” Leona said.

As for her chats with rookie Belac and their sightseeing trip, she said: “Yeah, she’s been asking me questions, and I don’t know the answers to all her questions. Just as this is a new week for her, it’s a brand new week for me as well. I’ve never been here before.

“Me and Lisa and her went to go see the Golden Gate Bridge yesterday, and I’m trying to help her any way I can, but I think we’ll be doing a little bit of figuring out together probably for the rest of the year.”

And the sightseeing?

“It was good,” she said. “Yeah, the views were definitely really cool. We got some good pictures out there. It’s nice when you come, and you get to go see some of the local things.”

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