Leona Maguire stands on the brink of history. After a sensational nine-under round of 63 she is now tied with Lydia Ko and could could earn the second largest winner’s cheque ever won by an Irish golfer. Rory McIlroy pocketed a cool $2.25 million when he won the Players Championship in 2019 while Shane Lowry earned $1.93m for his Open win at Portrush with Harrington getting $1.54m for his second Open win.
It has already been a fantastic year for Maguire who won the Drive On Championship in February but she could potentially win her biggest cheque and biggest tournament if she can oust Ko on Sunday as the pair look set for a Sunday shootout at -15.
The first two rounds were a slow burner for the Cavan native after successive rounds of 69 but she burst into life with a bogey-free 63.
It was a flawless round from the Solheim Cup star which included a fabulous back nine of 31 with birdies on 10, 11, 13, 16 and 17 and a total of just 25 putts for the day.
“Yeah played really nice,” said the 27-year-old. “Dermot my caddie had been talking a lot about patience this week and just committing to my targets and i did that really well today and yeah, got a few rollin early on got some momentum and yeah nice to see a few putts drop.
“To get those four birdies in a row were big, the wind was really swirling and i had some really good momentum.”
Maguire entered the week 17th in the Race to CME rankings and 20th in the Rolex World Rankings and with conditions set to worsen with rain and wind forecast for Sundays final round it could play into her wheelhouse.
“Yeah, I mean, we’ll have to wait and see how bad it gets but maybe a little rain, little wind. Nothing that I am not used it from from home in Ireland. So nice to get the little really low round under my belt today and just try and go out and do more of the same tomorrow.”
Maguire spoke about going under the radar at the halfway stage of the tournament and she hopes to do the same on Sunday with all the pressure surely on CME leader Ko as she looks to lock down the season-long title.
“Yeah, I mean, just do what I do today. Just try to hit really solid shots and hole more putts, but ultimately just go out and play as as well as I possibly can. And especially if there’s bad weather.”
“We’ll just play what’s in front of us tomorrow go back to what it was when I was 15/16 playing at home in Ireland.
“That’s that’s all you can control. So looking forward to one last walk of the season tomorrow.”
Maguire was asked about a potential MatchPlay situation with Ko whom she is well acquainted with at amateur level.
“It’s the type of course you have to focus on every shot, you can’t get distracted in any way there’s a lot of trickiness to it so I’m going to play as well as I can, whatever Lydia does, she does. I will be focused on me”
Maguire was the star of Europe’s 2021 Solheim Cup team and she has continued in that vein, she feels that week proved she belonged at the top level.
“Solheim was a big part of my journey. I’ve a lot to thank Beanie for picking me, playing as well as I did in those five matches I felt like I belong. It showed me my game was there and I carried that momentum into this year and that win was huge at the start of the year.”
As for the pressure of playing in the final group with the biggest cheque in the history of woman’s golf on the line, Maguire is not shying away from what lies ahead. “Lydia is a great golfer and i have a huge amount of respect for her. Hopefully tomorrow is a great battle. It would be nice to stand there with that trophy tomorrow but if not it has still been an incredible season, I would love to finish it off in style though.
“Any time you are in contention you just want to win, i’m as competitive as anyone out here and this is the last event of the year so i will be looking to finish on a high. As for the prize money, we are extremely lucky to be playing for that much but i will just go out and make the most of it tomorrow”
With the bad weather forecast the final round has been brought forward and switched to a two tee start in three balls. Leona will tee off at 15:35 Irish time alongside Lydia Ko with both players five shots clear of the chasing pack.