Leona Maguire and Stephanie Meadow return to Olympic action tonight for the first time since the Rio Games five years ago determined to put their experience to use at the Kasumigaseki Country Club arena in Tokyo.
Both players will be encouraged by their recent form as they go in pursuit of a medal for Team Ireland with Meadow buoyed by a tied-sixth result at the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational before grabbing a top-30 finish at the penultimate Major of the year at Evian.
Cavan professional Maguire will tee up for the first time in Asia as our leading medal hope, however, having broken inside the top-50 on the Rolex rankings following her stunning final round 61 at the Evian – equalling the lowest round in major history – and seeing her tie sixth in France as her game continues to soar from strength to strength.
“My game is in nice shape, it was nice to finish off Evian with a good round and good momentum. It was my best finish at a Major so yeah, everything’s sort of trending in the right direction,” Maguire said, who was given an almighty Olympic send-off by family and friends before jetting off to Japan.
“It was really cool, there was lots of different people with signs up and I was chatting to Dad earlier today and there is a lot of people with flags up and bunting and all the rest so it’s great to have the support of my local community and all around Cavan,” she said.
“I think all the Irish athletes are feeling the support from home even though there’s no crowds this week. But that’s the great thing about social media you can see a lot of what’s going on at home.”
Maguire was an amateur the last time she competed at the Games and despite admitting to feeling like a bit of a deer in the headlights on such a grand stage, she still finished 21st; an experience sure to bode well for her medal hopes in Japan.
“I think in Rio I was just in awe of everything and just happy to be there,” she said. “Obviously I was still an amateur and all that and just half way through college so it’s a bit of a different feel I guess this week. I’ve nearly a full year of LPGA under my belt so that will hold me in good stead.
“It’s all the same girls that I play with week in and week out, I suppose Rio I was looking at everyone I was looking at on TV every week as opposed to playing with them routinely so it’s nice to have that familiarity and have some good recent results so I know I can contend with the best of them.”
Perhaps the 26-year old’s biggest obstacle this week in her pursuit of Olympic glory will be the different grass types she’ll encounter around Kasumigaseki Country Club.
“It’s a very different golf course this week. I’ve never been to Asia before so there are different grasses and all the rest. So I’m trying to learn this new golf course as best I can before we go on Wednesday.”
“It’s going to be a really good test. They have a lot of options on tee boxes, it will be interesting to see how they set it up, there’s plenty of options to move around the par 5’s and a couple of par 4’s that they could make driveable if they want, I know they did that for the lads. It’ll definitely reward good shots and the greens are very pure so hopefully I can get the putter going like I did on Sunday at Evian.”
And if course knowledge was needed, Maguire, along with Meadow and coach Dave Kearney got to glean plenty of information from two of the best after Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry shared their secrets following bold medal bids last week in Japan.
“We got to speak to them when we arrived on Saturday and it’s nice to get their take on things, watch them and get a feel for the golf course,” said Maguire. “I’d never seen Rory in person hit a shot before so that was very impressive to watch so hopefully we can do as well as they did.. or go one better!”
The Olympic Women’s Individual Stroke Play at Kasumigaseki Country Club gets underway at 23.30 Irish time, tonight [Tuesday].
- 23.52 Golf – Leona Maguire – Women’s Stroke Play Round 1
- 02.46 Golf – Stephanie Meadow – Women’s Stroke Play Round 1
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