Leona Maguire lamented a lack of momentum on the back nine of her third round as she saw her AIG Women’s Open hopes come to an end on a blustery day at Muirfield.
Maguire failed to make any progress up the leaderboard and signed for a level-par 71 to leave her on two-under, twelve shots behind Ashleigh Buhai who was in a league of her own as she opened up a five-shot lead at the summit.
Maguire teed off six shots off the halfway lead and her first move was in the right direction with a birdie on the 5th. However, her momentum stalled around the turn with the back nine playing into a gale force wind which saw her drop shots on 14 and 15 before a birdie on 17 restored some parity.
“Yeah, the back nine was very tough. The wind really got up on the back nine. First six holes weren’t bad. You had to kind of take advantage of those first six, and I gave myself a few chances and didn’t really take advantage of them enough. Yeah, once we turned for the back nine it was tough,” explained Maguire who shaved plenty of edges including seeing an eagle putt on the 5th stop short in the jaws.
“I didn’t really get any momentum all day, I’d say and that would have within a nice sort of boost on the fifth. Had a good save on 7, good save on 8.”
The Cavan native was hitting driver, wood to the greens as she headed into the teeth of the wind and in the end she was content with level-par even if she let early chances slip away.
“And 14, 15 were playing very tough. Nice to get the birdie on 17. Even with it being downwind, it’s not an easy hole today.
“And 18 I hit 3-wood into 18 today. 18 is playing tough, back. We said this morning we would like to be past that pin on 18. That physically wasn’t possible.
“So yeah, I mean, level par, it’s all right. Would have been nice to be a few better, but yeah.”
While Maguire was unable to take advantage of the scoring third of the golf course, 54-hole leader Buhai roared out of the traps. The South African was five-under for her round after seven holes which included four successive birdies.
The Springbok added birdies on the tenth, fourteenth and seventeenth, with just the 18th standing in between her and one of the great major championship rounds of golf. However, she dropped her only shot of the day on the last and signed for a superb 64.
At fourteen-under she leads In Gee Chun and former champion Hinako Shibuno after they shot rounds of 70 and 66.
“I’m very pleased. To be able to I think shoot that score in those conditions, you have to be able to pat yourself on the back; so much so that I thought I was 6-under, not seven, so I was 8-under playing the last, which I think I have to look back is probably one of the best rounds of golf I’ve ever played,” explained Buhai whose best major finish is 5th at the Women’s Open in 2019.
“I think about when we played at Woburn a couple years ago, I shot 64 or 65 and I remember that being a really good day. I think I’m most proud of the way I just stayed focused and calm, and that’s all I try to control. I wasn’t thinking of the outcome.
“I only saw a leaderboard for the first time I think when I was on 12 — no, 13. And then I just said to myself, okay, that’s fine, you’re in a good spot. Check back in with yourself now and concentrate on what you’re trying to do,” added the Johannesburg native.
Madelene Sagstrom and Inbee Park are two shots further back in a share of 4th place on seven-under and will need something special and a prayer if they are to become the first female winners at Muirfield.