Leona Maguire continued her fine form as she moved to five-under on day one of the Dana Open presented by Marathon.
The 27-year-old arrived off the back of fourth and tenth place finishes at the AIG Women’s Open and the ISPS Handa World Invitational before taking four weeks off.
The 2021 Solheim Cup star was making her return to Ohio which has proven to be a happy hunting ground for her after she became the record points scorer for a rookie in Solheim Cup history at nearby Inverness while also making appearances in the Dana Open as an amateur.
“It’s always nice to come back to somewhere that you know you have good memories,” said Maguire. “I’ve signed a few Solheim pin flags and balls this week, which is nice. And I actually played here as an amateur when I was still in college I mean, it was a big learning experience for me. It was one of my first LPGA events at that point and sort of got a taste of what it meant, like we can make out sort of how to how to grow I think I missed the cut by one and was like, incredibly disappointed.
“So it was definitely a big sort of learning week for me in that regard. And, yeah, I mean, gave me plenty to sort of work on for the rest of that summer and heading into when I went back to college at Duke. So it’s nice to start coming back to places where you’ve been before and the people here are so friendly and so nice and this golf course reminds me a lot of home it’s quite tree lined. It’s a little smaller, a little smaller greens.”
Maguire made her return to LPGA Tour action with a bang with a bogey-free round of 66 in Ohio to trail Carlota Ciganda, Ruoning Yin and Hye Jin Choi by the minimum.
Playing the course from back to front the Cavan native turned in 35 after birdies on the 13th and 18th before she put on a spurt on the back nine.
Three birdies in five holes catapulted her into contention as she hunts down a second LPGA Tour win.
Birdies on the third, fourth and seventh saw her home in 31 and it was a supreme putting performances from the usually deadly Ballyconnell woman who took just 23 putts after hitting ten greens in regulations with new irons in the bag.
“Yeah played really solid, gave myself lots of chances and had a nice birdie on 13th to sort of get it going and then 18 to make the turn and kind of build on that momentum then had a couple in a row three, four and yeah, putted nicely gave myself lots of chances so overall a pretty solid day. Anytime you go bogey free it makes the day a bit nicer.
“It’s not like me to change. So I’ve been home for a couple of weeks did some testing when I was home. So yeah, the new Ping 230s are in the bag this week.”
Maguire has established herself as one of the top players in the game and she is among the superstars at the top of the leaderboard with major champions Lydia Ko, Lexi Thompson alongside her in an eight-way tie for fourth.
Meanwhile Stephanie Meadow is six shots behind after a level-par 71. Having made the quick turnaround after her day in Portrush Golf Club, the Jordanstown native endured a rollercoaster round where she registered five birdies but three bogeys and a double blotted her card and spoiled what could have been a good round.
The 30-year-old started well with two birdies in her opening four holes before three successive bogeys saw her slip to one-over.
A welcome birdie at the 9th saw her turn in level-par before a double-bogey six on the eleventh threatened to derail her round.
But Meadow has always been known for her resilience and the consistency she has shown this season was reflected in her response.
Birdies on 13 and 14 followed by four successive pars saw her salvage a level-par effort.
Maguire’s Solheim Cup teammate Ciganda might hail from Spain but she felt some home comforts around Highland Meadows Golf Club as she claimed a share of the early lead.
“I really like this place and I started very solid. I hit a lot of greens, great shots on 1, 2, 3, and I made like 15-footer on 2 and a 10-footer on 3 for birdie.
“Then I just told myself to keep giving chances, hit greens. I think it’s key on this golf course.
“And yeah, I feel very comfortable out there. I like the place. Reminds me of home in the summer, the weather, the trees, the design of the course. I really enjoy playing here and it’s been a great day.”
The Spaniard carded four birdies on her back nine and she feels the back nine yields good scoring.
“11 I hit it to two, three feet, so that was easy birdie. I birdied 13 as well. I think it was like ten, twelve feet. Then always nice to finish with a birdie. I hit a great 5-wood into the green on 18, so two-putt birdie.
“Yeah, very happy with the round, and especially no bogeys.
“Yeah, this course is a little different I feel because you don’t have — on the front nine there is only one par-5, three par-3s, and then you don’t have a par-5 until 17 and 18.
“I mean, you can go 2-, 3-under and then he have those two last holes to make a couple birdies. But I just enjoy the course. I enjoy it here a lot. Yeah, I like it.”