Leona Maguire could barely have had more contrasting beginning and ends to her opening round at the ISPS HANDA World Invitational at Galgorm Castle as she battled back from a disastrous start to hold a share of second place after day one.
The Cavan woman could not have started worse, losing her opening tee shot at the first hole at Galgorm, but she managed to birdie her second ball to salvage a bogey, and from there she set about putting herself in a great position, an eagle and seven birdies – with another three bogeys thrown in there – leading to a five-under 68.
Indeed, after her horrible start, she ended her day with three straight birdies for a fine performance and she is only one shot behind leader Amanda Doherty despite feeling like she didn’t have her best game.
After her wretched opening hole, Maguire would quickly get under-par with an eagle at the par-five third, followed that with back-to-back birdies at the par-four fourth and par-three fifth thanks to glorious approaches and, despite dropping shots at the sixth and eighth, would turn in two-under thanks to a birdie at the par-five ninth.
But it was on the back nine she sparked into life, cancelling out a bogey at the par-three 12th with a birdie one hole later after a stunning approach, and she would finish the day with a flourish, rattling off three straight birdies to move into a tie for second.
“Never ideal when you hit your first tee shot out of bounds, but I’ve done well,” reflected the 27-year-old, who lived up to her star billing as the top ranked player in the field.
“Didn’t hit the ball particularly well today well off the tee. Few dropped shots but putted really nice to keep myself in there, and it’s always nice to finish with three birdies in the end.
“If I get it straightened out tonight then we’ll go again tomorrow at Massereene. I putted great, which is something I struggled with last week. That’s golf. Considering how I hit it today, five-under is a really, really good score.”
It helped that she was playing alongside former Open champion Georgia Hall, who is also tied for second at five-under after an eagle, four birdies and a bogey, and Sweden’s Linn Grant, who is two shots behind them after a three-under 70.
But the trio were beaten by the sensational Doherty, who was playing Galgorm the other way around at exactly the same time as the headline trio, and she was the best of the lot as she fired seven birdies and one bogey in a 67 to claim a one-shot lead.
The unknown American, who is ranked 211th in the world and has finished inside the top-30 just once in 11 starts in her debut LPGA Tour season, picked the right moment to produce the best round of her young top flight career and she was thrilled at how she stayed patient on the course.
“I was really just trying to stay in the moment today, and I feel like I was just kind of in that mindset starting the day. I stayed there and I stayed patient. I know it’s kind of cliche, but it works,” said Doherty.
“I was hitting the ball well. I made a couple good putts and there were some reachable par-fives, so just kind of came together.”
Maguire and Hall are joined in a share of second place by Denmark’s Emily Kristine Pedersen and the USA’s Lauren Coughlin, who had set the early pace with a pair of five-under 67s at Massereene in the early morning wave, with seven players tied for sixth at four-under.
Taipei’s Peiyun Chen looked like she might shoot the house down when she opened her round at Galgorm eagle-birdie-birdie-birdie to tie the lead after just four holes, but she would eventually settle for a three-under 70 alongside Grant.
Further down the leaderboard, Olivia Mehaffey opened with three birdies and six bogeys in a three-over 75, while five bogeys and one birdie in a 76 for Stephanie Meadow – both at Massereene – has them sitting around the top-100 early after day one.