Maguire makes early move with 69 at Evian

Leona Maguire (Photo by Jorge Lemus/NurPhoto)

Leona Maguire signed for a bogey-free two-under par round of 69 to kick off her latest Major quest at the Evian Championship on Thursday.

The Cavan professional took advantage of the par-5 ninth and 15th in birdie ‘four’, the 26-year old sitting in a tie for 23rd at minus-two having found 10 of 13 fairways and 13 of 18 greens while also needing 29 putts to navigate her way around the Champions Course on the opening day.

That was two shots better than Stephanie Meadow who, buoyed by her tied sixth finish alongside Cristie Kerr last week, returned a rollercoaster even par round of 71 that included five birdies, three bogeys and a double. Even par was the projected cut-mark after round one with Meadow in a tie for 56th heading into Friday where she’ll look to book her place in the weekend field.

At the top, Thailand’s Pajaree Anannarukarn and teenager American Yealimi Noh carded a pair of six-under 65s to share the first-round lead in France.

Noh’s start set the tone for the day with a blistering eagle on the first hole. She dropped a shot at the fourth before birdies at 6 and 7 and three more on the back nine. The consistent Pajaree had three birdies on the way out and three on the way back to the clubhouse.

The pair enjoy a one-stroke lead over a chasing quintet that includes Japan’s Ayaka Furue, American Lauren Stephenson, Atthaya Thitikul of Thailand, Jeongeun Lee6 of South Korea, and Dane Emily Kristine Pedersen. Australian Sarah Kemp, South Korean Hyo Joo Kim — the Women’s World Championship winner in May — and Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn shot 67s.

Meanwhile, new world No. 1 Nelly Korda endured a rough start to her bid for a second major title when she posted a 3-over 74. The American, who won the Women’s PGA Championship last month to move to No. 1, had five bogeys and made only her second birdie on the 17th hole.

Defending champ Jin Young Ko signed for a one-over 72.

“I have seen my picture everywhere, so I was thinking, ‘Wow, that was just two years ago but feels like it was five years ago,'” Ko said, who won at Evian in 2019 but the event was cancelled last year amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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