Maguire signs off on stunning rookie season in style

Adam McKendry
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Maguire signs off on stunning rookie season in style

Leona Maguire (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

A 45-foot birdie putt finished Leona Maguire’s season on a high note as she concluded a fantastic year with a tied-12th finish at the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, Florida.

The Cavan ace ended her week with a two-under 70 at Tiburón Golf Club to reach 14-under, nine shots behind the outstanding Jin Young Ko, who claimed back-to-back CME Globe titles.

The Korean, who didn’t hit a warm-up shot early in the week to protect a hurt wrist, was phenomenal on Sunday, carding a nine-under 63 to claim the win by one shot from Nasa Hataoka and $1.5million – the biggest winners’ cheque in women’s golf.

“I didn’t practice at all for this week before the tee off, even Monday or Tuesday, but I still played really well this week, so I couldn’t believe how (I was) hitting so straight every shot and every putt made it,” laughed Ko.

“I would say this year is tougher than 2019 with the COVID and without the fans somewhere. It’s amazing how I won five times when I look back. Right now it’s the end of the season, the last tournament of the year, so I’m really happy with it.”

In contrast, Maguire walks away $62,415 richer for her efforts after a fine season that saw her finish runner-up in the Rookie of the Year race, a Solheim Cup hero and with five top-10 finishes, two of which were runner-up’s.

A win evaded her, but that is surely soon in coming, with the 26-year-old not short of a lack of desire or drive to keep progressing her career onwards.

On this occasion it would have taken a sensational round to overhaul Ko, with Maguire starting the day two back and dropping a shot on the first hole which effectively took her out of contention given the number of players in contention around her.

She was bogey-free from there though, birdies dropping at the sixth and 11th before she snaked in a monster putt on the par-four 18th for a ‘3’ that finishes her season on a positive note.

But ahead of her it was Ko who defended the title she won last season and also claimed LPGA Player of the Year honours in a thrilling finish to the LPGA Tour season in Naples.

The 26-year-old from Seoul hit 63 consecutive greens to finish the tournament, however despite her remarkable consistency and fine final day scoring, she was pushed the entire way by the excellent Hataoka who, on any other week, would have won comfortably.

The pair had started the day tied for the lead alongside Celine Boutier, who finished tied for third at 18-under after a 68 in her final round, and World No.1 Nelly Korda, who dropped away after a 69 that saw her take a share of fifth.

After rolling in a 25-footer on her opening hole, Ko never looked back, adding five more birdies in a 30 on her front nine, with Hataoka trailing by three after a three-under front nine.

Heading into the final hole, Ko led by two strokes after three more birdies to Hataoka’s five but, even though the Japanese put the pressure on with a birdie, Ko had the composure to close with a par and the best round of the week to seal the title.

Boutier would share third with Mina Harigae at 18-under, while Korda, Megan Khang and Minjee Lee were next best at 17-under.

Meanwhile, Lydia Ko finished her season with an eight-under 64 to win the Vare Trophy for the lowest scoring average.

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