Leona Maguire and Stephanie Meadow will bid for a maiden major title in the final golf major championship of the year in Muirfield.
At last month’s Open Championship we had one of the great Sunday finishes and Muirfield can boast having played host to one of the most dramatic Claret Jug conclusions in recent times when Phil Mickelson won here in 2013.
Although that memory has been tarnished by the actions of Mickelson this year, it is perhaps fitting that this links gets the opportunity to create a new chapter when the best players from the women’s game tee it up here for the first time at the AIG Women’s Open.
Back when Lefty won his one and only Claret Jug, there were no female members in Muirfield as the Scottish club fell behind the times, but that has all changed since then.
It was this time last year that Maguire began to announce herself as one of the most consistent players in the game as she registered a career-best 13th place finish at Carnoustie last year while Anna Nordqvist won her third major crown.
It was during a hot run of three top-15 finishes in the majors – including 6th at the Evian last year – that the Cavan native showed glimpses of what she was capable of and that of course came to a head at the Solheim Cup weeks later.
The inevitable maiden LPGA Tour win came in February this year and in truth, since then the 27-year-old has struggled for consistency and arrives in Muirfield with fans unsure of which Leona Maguire will show up.
There have been high points, two top-15 finishes followed her fantastic win while there was a bitterly disappointing playoff defeat to Jennifer Kupcho and an excellent 8th place finish at the Women’s US Open. Maguire’s best finish in her last three starts though is 54th and also includes a missed cut.
Still, whatever happens this week, a made cut will make it five cuts in the majors this year and nine in a row for the world number 22 who has taken to the big events like a duck to water over the last two years.
Maguire tees off alongside Nasa Hataoka and Lydia Ko at 12.27 pm.
While Maguire has struggled for consistency over the summer, Stephanie Meadow has found it and that has made all the difference for her.
The Jordanstown native is basking in the relative comfort of 63rd in the CME Globe Rankings and has moved onto the cusp of the top-100 in the Rolex Rankings in 112th.
The 30-year-old has made her last four cuts which includes a top-10 at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship where she probably should have been in the heat of battle on Sunday.
Meadow warmed up for the AIG Women’s Open with a 38th place finish at the Trust Golf Women’s Scottish Open while she has made the cut in three of the four majors this season.
The Arizona resident gets her campaign underway alongside Mo Martin and Sarah Schmelzel.
Last year Sweden’s Nordqvist came from behind to deny Nana Koerstz Madsen for her third major crown and first victory in four years and she admits being the AIG Women’s Open champion has been a dream come true.
“It’s obviously a very special honour, if someone would have said when I as a young girl that I would one day win the AIG Women’s Open, I probably would have told them they were crazy. It’s probably the biggest childhood dream I’ve ever had, especially being from Europe,” said Nordqvist. “I’m going to embrace the opportunity teeing up on the first hole being announced as the defending champion. It’s been a huge honour having the trophy and getting to share it with my friends and family for the last year.”
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