After sitting out last week’s Champions Tournament at her Florida base at Lake Nona, Leona Maguire returns to action at this week’s Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio as a fully-fledged member of the Tour having officially left behind her Rookie status.
Given pandemic disruption, the Cavan star enjoyed 18 months as a Rookie, building from one season to the next and all the while eking out marginal improvements that amount to so much in this game of inches.
This past off-season, though shorter than usual, was spent working towards more of the same; a month at home with full access to coach Shane O’Grady before flying back for warmer pastures in Florida and fine-tuning ahead of this week’s seasonal reappearance in Boca Raton.
Expectation will never be so great this year amongst Maguire followers, especially after the now world number 40 ranked swinger’s exploits at the Solheim Cup. And although some bookmakers have Maguire odds-on to enjoy a breakthrough LPGA win this season, thus booking her place in the elusive Champions Tournament for 12 months’ time, that anticipation will be nothing new for Maguire who remains focussed on the details sure to shape the bigger picture, and distract from getting lost in it.
“There are some goals written down,” Maguire smiled on a conference call announcing KPMG’s extension of their long-time support of the now 27-year old.
“A lot of them are more based on practice and stuff like that and not outcome goals.
“There’s not going to be anything on there about winning tournaments or winning Majors or anything like that. That stuff’s outside my control. If that happens, fantastic, but that won’t be the primary focus of my goals – it never has been.
“I’ve never been someone to focus on rankings or winning so it will be more on my preparation and things like that that ultimately will hopefully lead to those things.”
This week represents the first opportunity for Maguire to put her practice in play and gauge where she’s at. In fact, the next two weeks afford LPGA Tour members a type of dress-rehearsal window.
It’s not quite a free-hit given the points to play for and purses up for grabs but with another three weeks off upcoming before tournaments in Singapore and Thailand, should the next fortnight fall short in terms of results, there’s a cushion of time to lean on before the season really ramps up, with Maguire likely to tee up in all eleven tournaments on the calendar in the lead up to June’s US Open at Pine Needles.
“This is sort of a mini-start given the break and how early we’re starting the season,” Maguire said ahead of a return to familiar territory this week in Boca Rio.
“There will be a little bit of rust there I would imagine but at the same time, it’s nice to go back to a venue that I know. We played two years ago in Boca Rio. That was my first event of my first Rookie year before the whole world shut down. So it’s nice to be going back and nice to see where my game is at compared to where it was two years ago at the same venue.
“There are still a few things that are works in progress so I’ll take these two weeks as learning weeks and see where I’m at, and see what needs to be tweaked heading into Singapore and Thailand.”
Having dominated the amateur game, spending 135 weeks as the world number one before turning professional and claiming two wins on the Symetra Tour, you can be sure Maguire’s more determined than ever to capture an LPGA Tour title. Success this year might not hinge on helping herself to a maiden honour, but given how close she came with two second place finishes on her 2021 CV, Maguire’s process driven approach for incremental improvements doesn’t have to find much to get her over the line.
“It’s all about making improvements,” she insists. “Success is relative. Everyone’s journey is very different. It’s very easy to compare yourself to people you graduated with or grew up with – the Nellys, the Lydias, people like that.
“Ultimately, it’s my own journey.
“All I can be is be better than I was yesterday, better than I was last year. That’s success for me. I didn’t win in 2021 but I felt it was my most successful year because I committed to the changes I made and executed them when I needed to for the most part. For me, that was a big success.”
Right now, success may not be defined by titles for Maguire, but if she achieves success by the parameters she’s identified for 2022, it would be a surprise if that’s not enough to clinch one.