Leona Maguire fired a three-under par round of 69 to get her season up and running at the Gainbridge LPGA at Lake Nona.
The Cavan professional, who admitted last year that she had been slow out of the starting blocks most weeks on Tour, had no such worries this week in Florida in her first appearance since December’s Tour Championship. Starting on the back nine, Maguire traded two birdies with two bogeys to make the turn in even par before picking up three shots on a bogey-free run to the clubhouse to sign for a three-under 69, good enough to be sharing 11th, four back of Lydia Ko’s lead.
Maguire, who topped the average putting charts on Tour with under 29 putts needed per round in 2020 had 32 swipes of the flat-stick on Thursday, finding 10 of 14 fairways and 16 of 18 greens in regulation.
Meanwhile, her Irish Olympic teammate Stephanie Meadow found just nine greens in reg on a rusty first outing as she carded a four-over par 76 on day one. The Jordanstown professional posted five bogeys and one birdie to be just inside the top-100 at plus four on the board.
It’s Lydia Ko by the two at the top after the impressive Kiwi fired an eagle and six birdies to head the field at seven-under par. The world number 29 holed out from the fairway at the first hole and never looked back with Ko admitting that it’s the best round she’s played at Lake Nona in her career to date.
“I hit a really good drive and then I only had gap wedge into the green. I had my sunglasses on and I saw it bounce and kind of go forward and disappear. But there is a ridge behind, so I wasn’t sure if it went over the ridge or went in. I didn’t want to celebrate and then look dumb and the ball is like 30 feet long,” said Ko of the eagle at the first. “I was a pleasant surprise to see that the ball was down at the bottom of the cup.”
As for the performance in general, the 15-time LPGA Tour winner added;
“I think this is probably my best score around here. Normally when I’m playing I don’t really count everything. The last few rounds I played with a few other players just before this week, so I kind of took my score, because you kind of have to get used to making sure that every shot counts.
“I think sometimes when you’re out there practicing, and especially by myself, you know that you can hit a second shot if you miss-hit one so you don’t focus as much. So it was nice with those few rounds coming in and playing with other players just slowly getting back into competitive mode. But I think it’s a pretty tricky golf course and the greens are subtle in some areas. I think that makes it extra tricky.”
The pre-amble to the tournament surrounded legendary Annika Sorenstam making her first appearance on the Tour in 13 years. The GOAT of the women’s game, who boasted 94 tournament wins worldwide including ten Major titles before calling time on an illustrious career, lives by the 16th at Lake Nona; a hole she parred en route to a three-over par opening 75. If it wasn’t for a treble bogey at the fifth, it could’ve been even better for the now 50-year old Swede.
“Score-wise I would loved to have been a little better,” said Sorenstam. “You know, if I look at it objectively it’s one hole that really messed it up. I was trying to get back at it, but I can’t remember the last time I had a triple or hit it out of bounds. So that certainly put a damper in the round.
“Overall I really had a good time. I thought the course was playing beautiful out there. Playing with Anna and Madelene was a highlight, and to have everybody here, family and friends, just doesn’t get much better than that.”
- Full scoring HERE