Maguire ready to tackle Evian with Meadow after recovering her weapons

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Leona Maguire (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

Leona Maguire announced herself as a world class player at the Solheim Cup two months after she raised a few eyebrows at last year’s Amundi Evian Championship.

Maguire returns to the venue where she confirmed she has the credentials to become a mainstay at the top level; a blistering record-equalling final round of 61 saw the Cavan native soar through the field and ultimately finish in a share of 6th place – her highest major championship finish to date. 

The result came in the middle of a run of top-15 finishes including at the PGA and Open Championships while also culminating in her arriving in Ohio as one of the form players for Catriona Matthew’s European charges. 

There is no Solheim Cup this term but that doesn’t mean Maguire can’t light it up on her European swing that will also include a performance on home soil next month at the ISPS Handa World Invitational.

“It’s a nice stretch,” Maguire said. “It’s nice to be back playing in Europe again.

“This week is obviously a big week and then really looking forward to Muirfield in a few weeks. I’m not going to Scotland so I’ll be home for a few days, might get a bit of links practice back home, play the Open and then obviously up to Galgorm as well. It’s a really nice swing and nice to be back on this side of the pond for a few weeks.”

Having teed up at the Irish Open Pro-Am and the JP McManus Pro-Am already, it’s no wonder Maguire is relishing an extend period on the fairways back home.

“It already been an incredible time,” she said. “The crowds at Mount Juliet for pro-am day were fantastic and it was the same with Adare for JP.

“I don’t think I was prepared for the amount of people there – 35, 40,000 people was crazy but it was such a fun few days. Obviously meeting Tiger, playing between Rory and Tiger for the first day, it was one of those very special weeks so just trying to build on the positivity from that.

“Plus Adare is a world class venue so it’s good prep heading into another tough venue like Evian this week too.”

It has already been quite a bizarre week for the world number 19 who lost her clubs en route to France but remarkably, thanks to the power of social media, managed to track them down. Now Maguire will have a full arsenal for her tee time on Thursday as she hunts a maiden major title. 

The hampered preparation might take some pressure off the shoulders of the Ballyconnell woman and see her thrust herself into the thick of it on Sunday which would be another stepping stone in her career. 

“I saw them getting driven away from the plane at Dublin airport so I knew they weren’t on the plane before we landed but when they say they’ve no idea where they are, that’s always a little concerning,” Maguire recalls.

“You don’t mind when they say they’re putting them on the next flight, but when it could be days or weeks… you hear the horror stories from everybody and see the pictures of luggage piled up, but the power of social media. I was very lucky to get a hold of a person in Dublin airport to physically go get the bag.”

Maguire has already enjoyed a superb season, becoming the first Irishwoman to win on any major tour when she scooped her maiden LPGA Tour win in February while she has another runner-up at the Meijer as well as a top-8 at the US Women’s Open. 

Now she’s hoping a bit of perspective early in the week can come in handy for what’s sure to be a test of patience until the last putt drops in France.

“I suppose my patience has been tested a lot already this week but do you know what, maybe it’s given me a bit of perspective and I’m just thankful to be able to tee it up on Thursday with my clubs. It’s a bit of an early bonus,” she laughed.

The 27-year-old tees off alongside Mina Harigae and Hye Jin Choi at 12.39pm Irish time.

Stephanie Meadow is enjoying a very good season after finding consistency that she has never really had in her career, but that consistency has been rewarded with a place in the field this week as a result of her CME Globe ranking on the LPGA Tour. 

Sitting in the relative comfort of 64th in the Race to CME Globe rankings, there will be no pressure to maintain her playing privileges at the end of the season and the Jordanstown native can look up rather than down.

Perhaps we saw that at the Women’s PGA Championship where she notched only the second top-10 major finish of her career, in a tournament she really ought to have put herself in contention. 

The 30-year-old secured a top-30 finish here last year and there is no doubt she can aim for higher this week.  Meadow tees off with Solheim Cup veteran Caroline Masson and last year’s runner-up Jeongeun Lee6. 

Minjee Lee returns as defending champion having created history by matching the largest come from behind victory when she overcame a seven-stroke gap to pip Lee6 in a playoff. In fact, with 22 holes to play she found herself ten shots adrift before setting the clubhouse target of –18 before Lee6 birdied her last three holes to force extra holes. 

The Evian Championship has a habit of making history. 

In 2014, Hyo Joo Kim opened with a round of 61 for the lowest 18-hole score ever recorded in a major championship. 

In 2016, In Gee Chun set a new 72-hole winning total, the lowest score by a male or female in a major championship, with her 21-under par victory. 

This time around history beckons for Jennifer Kupcho who could become the first American to win Juli Inkster in 1999 to win two major championships in a season. 

Kupcho who downed Maguire in a playoff at the Meijer has three wins this season including the US Women’s Open. 

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