World number 11 Leona Maguire fired an opening round of 70 at the HSBC Women’s World Championship at Singapore’s Sentosa Golf Club. The two-under total has the Ballyconnell star in a 15-way tie for 14th place alongside world number one Lydia Ko, and six shots behind first-round leader Elizabeth Szokol.
Having endured heavy rain in the earlier part of the week, Sentosa’s Tanjong Course played extremely long with little-to-no run on tee shots – conditions that play into the hands of the longer hitters on the LPGA circuit.
Maguire, playing the course the traditional routing, opened with a par but got into red figures with a birdie-three at the second. She’d add another at the par-3 seventh, but a bogey-six followed and she’d reach the midpoint at -1 for the day.
Eight pars and a solitary birdie was the return for the back nine – the outlier coming at the par-5 13th – and she’d post -2, hitting 11 of 14 fairways and 14 of 18 greens in a round that could’ve been so much lower had she had more luck on the greens.
“Yeah, I’ve been playing well,” Maguire said after the round. “My game has been really solid. Gave myself a lot of chances today. I had a lot of putts that just lipped out or just went by the edge.
“So just do more of the same tomorrow, and hopefully I can hole a few more putts.”
Maguire arrived in Singapore on the back of a T6 finish at the Honda LPGA Thailand event in Chonburi a week prior, and she knows that her game is trending in the right direction.
“Yeah, I think you just have to have patience in these weeks,” she told the press. “I think it’s hard. There’s weather issues. We didn’t get probably ideal practice in this week.
“So you just kind of have to stay patient, have a good attitude, and take your chances where you get them.”
In a star-studded field that sees no fewer than eight major champions in a tie for ninth or better, American Elizabeth Szokol stole the show on the opening day, firing seven birdies and an eagle with just the one bogey to take the first-round lead at -8 and a three-shot cushion over Japan’s Yuka Saso in second place.
Szokol missed most of last year through injury, only returning for the latter part of the season, and is playing her first nine events of 2023 as part of her medical exemption.
“Yeah, I had a back injury,” Szokol said afterwards. “So I was planning on coming here last year but made the decision not to and take some time away from the game, which was a good decision looking back, and really focused on getting better and feeling healthy. And just happy to be back playing and especially here.”
Asked about the conditions, Szokol admitted that the heavy rain had allowed her to take a more aggressive approach.
“Yeah, it was pretty soft,” she said. “The greens were quite soft. So I could definitely attack a few more pins.
“This is my first time playing here. And people had said usually it’s a bit firmer. But the rain definitely softened it up. So I could be a little bit more aggressive with some pins today.”
Szokol leads Maguire by six, but the Solheim Cup star is just three shots from second place and will be hoping that she can close the gap in round two, where she’ll once again play with USA’s Lilia Vu and Korean A Lim-Kim, teeing off at 8:01 AM local time which is just after midnight here.
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