Leona Maguire blasted her way into contention with a superb seven-under par moving day 65 but insists she must remain aggressive to keep in touch with a relentless scoring pace at the LOTTE Championship.
The Cavan professional goes into the final round at Kapolei Golf Club five shots back of Lydia Ko’s lead despite returning a dizzying 16-under par 54-hole score on just her first visit to Hawaii. The 26-year old birdied her opening two holes on Saturday and picked up three more birdies to turn in 31 before dropping her first shot of the week at the par-4 eleventh.
Unflustered, she birdied the par-5 fourteenth before the highlight of her round, an eagle ‘2’ at 15, Maguire leaving herself a perfect number with her wedge and executing before the ball disappeared ahead of three closing pars.
“I didn’t see it go in,” Maguire admitted. “It was a nice number for us. We were sort of debating between a 55 degree and a wedge for me, and just picked up a little bit of wind. And that is what it was doing on the back nine. It was swirling a little bit, it was dropping, it was picking up.
“Yeah, hit it exactly where I wanted just right of the flag. I thought it was nice and then Mi Hyang started to cheer, so then I had feeling it went in, which is just a bonus.”
Not just a bonus but it gives Maguire a real chance of collecting a maiden LPGA title later tonight. Victorious at every level of the game, including twice on Symetra before graduating to the Main Tour, Maguire is chasing down two of the very best in Lydia Ko (-21) and Nelly Korda (-20), not that she’s intimidated by the prospect.
“There are a lot of big players in front of me. Obviously Lydia and Nelly are right there and they’ve been doing it for a while,” Maguire said.
“But it’s the same mindset as I had today. Today was moving day. I knew I had to go low to keep up with those ahead and around me. It’ll be the exact same tomorrow. Unless they get nasty on us and tuck a few pins. Yeah, it’s really a case of going as low as you possibly can and seeing where it stacks up at the end of the day.”
Having led on day two at the year’s first Major, the ANA, just two weeks ago before fading into the weekend, Maguire is hoping to draw on that experience to ensure she runs through the line this week in Hawaii.
“It’s been close for a few weeks,” Maguire said. “Put some really nice rounds together at ANA a couple weeks ago and didn’t really capitalise on that as much as I would’ve liked.
“But played really nice this side of the year and, yeah, put a lot of work in over the off-season. Changed my irons, which have helped a huge amount, given myself a lot more chances. Picked up a little extra yardage, which is helping too on some holes going in with shorter irons into those front pins, especially. Yeah, it’s all coming together quite nicely.”
Unfortunately Stephanie Meadow’s challenge faded on moving day; the Jordanstown professional trading three bogeys with two birdies in a one-over 73 that sees her drop to a tie for 63rd at six-under.
- Full scoring HERE