Leona Maguire returns to action this week at the JTBC Classic keen to keep the momentum going ahead of the first Major of the year starting next Thursday at the Chevron Championship.
Free from any lingering jet-lag following two fine showings at the HSBC Women’s World Championship in Singapore (T12) and the Honda LPGA Thailand (T13) earlier this month, Maguire, who broke through to win her first LPGA Tour title at the Drive On Championship in February, is determined to keep the foot down in pursuit of more titles, with the taste of victory still fresh on her lips.
“[I want to] try to be in contention as much as possible. You get a taste and you want to be back there, so just giving myself as many opportunities as possible,” Maguire said ahead of her second appearance at the JTBC Classic where she finished tied-56th in her rookie year last season.
“That was the thing even with the win. If I hadn’t won in Florida that week, I was proud of putting myself in contention, keep knocking on the door, keep giving myself chances, and the win doesn’t change that.
“The mentality is still the same for the rest of the year. We’ve got this week and the major coming up next week, so try to be in contention in as many majors as possible.
“The big goal last year was to try and qualify for the Majors, get back into U.S. Open (at Pine Needles). Haven’t been there for two years, so it will be nice to go back to North Carolina again.”
Maguire has already made an impression on a Major stage, not least when she raced home with a final round 10-under 61 at the Evian Championship for a tied-sixth finish last July. Gunning to get into the mix on a Major Sunday once more, Maguire has landed on what she believes is the right formula to best prepare for this year’s biggest tournaments and that’s adopting a relentless playing schedule right up to the U.S. Women’s Open from June 2-5.
“I like to play and I’ve kind of figured out that multiple weeks off are not that good for me,” Maguire says.
“I enjoy practicing but I enjoy competing more and it keeps my game sharp, so, yeah, I’m not planning on skipping any events this side of U.S. Open. We’ll see as the year progresses, but, no, I like to play my way into form. So yeah, I plan on playing ahead of all the majors this year.”
As excited and all as Maguire is about some of the standout dates on the calendar, not least that trip back to North Carolina for the $10million U.S. Open, a stone’s throw from where she enjoyed a dominant collegiate career at Duke University, the Cavan star is refusing to get caught in thoughts of the future with so much to play for in the present.
This week’s assignment at Aviara Golf Club in Carlsbad sits front and centre in Maguire’s thinking, and after a baggage mishap to start the week, the 27-year old is well into her preparation work, and has been sparring with Olympic teammate Stephanie Meadow to sharpen her tools ahead of Thursday’s opening day.
“This week is all about this week, trying to play as well as I can this week, and when Sunday night comes we’ll switch our attention to Chevron,” Maguire said. “Right now 100% of the focus has to be on this week and whatever it takes to putt well and score well around here.
“I played here last year. My bags went missing yesterday [Monday], so got my first look today. Played 18 today. Got a little match and Steph Meadow and Madelene Sagstrom, so that was fun.
“It’s a good golf course. You have to pick your shots, keep it on the fairways, hit into the right spots on the greens. The greens aren’t incredibly fast, but they’re sneaky fast above the pins.
“I think staying in the right spot is going to be key this week. Never been a big fan of poa greens, so that’s going to be a challenge for me this week to sort of be patient and trust my lines. So that’s going to be the big thing this week.”
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