Maguire off to winning start at LPGA Match-Play

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Maguire off to winning start at LPGA Match-Play

Leona Maguire (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Leona Maguire got off to the perfect start with victory on day one of the LPGA Tour’s inaugural Bank of Hope LPGA Match-Play Hosted by Shadow Creek.

The Cavan professional saw-off American Ally Ewing 2&1 with a birdie at the penultimate hole giving Maguire her first win in the round robin contest. Maguire had been two down after eight holes but rallied with four birdies on the spin from the ninth, turning the match on its head before completing victory on 17. In the other match in Group 13, Jennifer Kupcho disposed of Christina Kim 6&4.

“I haven’t played match play in quite a while, probably since national senior year so getting back into that mindset a little bit but it’s such a tough course you really have to focus on your own game,” Maguire said.

“Going two down after eight, Ally made a great birdie on eight and I holed a really nice putt on nine and that gave me some momentum heading into the back nine. I made a really good up and down on 10 and then stuck it close on 11 and 12 to make two good birdies there.

“It gave me some really good momentum going into those last few holes. It’s a tough finish so it’s nice to have that advantage heading into the end. I putted really nice, holed a couple of really nice putts early on for halves when I need to and then on the back nine to win those holes. The greens here are so pure so you know if you get the ball on line, you give yourself a chance of holing that putt.”

Maguire’s game looks tailor-made for match play competition and given her rock-solid start on Tour this year, it’s no surprise that the Solheim Cup is firmly on her radar.

“I’ve got off to a nice start this year, got myself some good ranking points,” she said. “The better I do every week, it can only help for Solheim. I suppose I have a very American group this week with Ally, Jennifer and Christina so potentially some of them are going to be on the US Solheim Cup team. If I can beat them and get some points even in my group stages, I’m sure that will help along the way.”

Perhaps the biggest upset came in Group 4, where No. 61 Jenny Coleman knocked off No. 4 Brooke Henderson, 1 up. Coleman, playing in just her second match-play event and first since the 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur, carded only four birdies, but they all came at opportune moments.

After dropping the first three holes to Henderson, who was runner-up at that same Women’s Amateur, Coleman’s birdie at No. 5 cut the deficit to two holes. She tied the match with a birdie at No. 11 and took her first lead with a third birdie at No. 16. Her final birdie at No. 18 sealed the big win.

“I think we were both pretty even keeled,” said Coleman. “I just came off to a sloppy kind of start, and she kind of had a rough patch in the middle, and then I started capitalising on it and kept moving all the way through the back nine pretty good. Just stayed patient, but also playing smart.”

No. 5 Danielle Kang cruised to a 7-and-6 victory over No. 60 Albane Valenzuela, Wednesday’s largest margin of victory. Her American Solheim Cup compatriots Lizette Salas and Stacy Lewis followed close behind, notching 5-and-4 wins over Madelene Sagstrom and Mi Hyang Lee, respectively. The win was particularly sweet for Lewis, who is chomping at the bit to get back onto Team USA after missing the 2019 competition with a back injury.

“I really want to be playing. I want to be a part of the team. I want to help the team win,” said Lewis. “Pat [Hurst, USA Captain] is out seems like almost every week right now watching, so just trying not to pay attention if she is hanging around, but I know she’s watching and paying attention.”

No. 1 Jin Young Ko, despite admitting no love for the match-play format, earned a 4-and-2 victory over No. 64 Natalie Gulbis. No. 2 Inbee Park went the distance with 2020/21 LPGA Tour rookie Jennifer Chang, who took a 1-up lead to the final hole. With a white ribbon on her hat in memory of her grandfather, who died on Monday, Park got up and down for birdie from the back of the green to tie the match.

“Just feels really weird playing in the hometown and waking up in your own bed and going to the tournament. I mean, it’s something I’ve never done before,” said Park, who has lived in Las Vegas since she was a teenager. “So today was how I kind of felt a little nervous and I wasn’t able to perform as well as I wanted to perform. Hopefully the rust is off today and the next few days I’ll be playing better.”

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