Maguire enjoying the added responsibilities as defending champion at Drive On Championship

Mark McGowan

Drive On Champion 2022 Leona Maguire (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)

Leona Maguire returns to US soil this week at the LPGA’s Drive On Championship as defending champion, and is more than happy to shoulder the additional responsibilities that accompany the tag.

The Duke University graduate and former amateur world number one captured her maiden LPGA Tour title at the 2022 staging at Crown Colony Golf Club in Fort Myers, Florida, and though the venue and state have changed, she’s been very busy since arriving to begin her title defence.

“Yeah, it’s a cool experience so far,” she said. “Definitely a lot of — been a busy week, a lot extra things to do, but a good problem to have I suppose. And nice to be here in the desert. Very different to Fort Myers last year.


“Looking forward to a great week. Played really nice golf through Asia, so hopefully I can build on that momentum this week.”

Title sponsors Drive On have moved the championship cross country to Gold Canyon, Arizona and Maguire expects a very different challenge to present itself this week.

“Yeah, last year I think at Crown Colony it was really windy all week,” she admitted, “and you had to to plot your way around the golf course, stay really patient. This week may get windy; not really sure yet.

“It’s definitely firm and fast so far. We’ll see what happens with rain. I think course management is going to be a big thing this week. It’s pretty wide open off the tee. You can hit it pretty much anywhere, but around the greens it’s going to be tricky.

“So hitting a lot of greens and trying to take advantage of them. The greens are rolling pure, so trying to hole as many putts as possible this week.”

Rounds of 66, 65 and 67 saw the Ballyconnell star close out a three-stroke victory over Lexi Thompson last year, and though she’d already announced herself on the global stage with her Solheim Cup heroics the previous September, leading Europe to victory with a perfect 5-0-0 record, being in contention on the LPGA Tour was still something she was coming to terms with.

“I think I went into that week and it was a second event the year last year. Went in with really no expectations and got — just played really well. I was solid all week. Didn’t do a lot of things wrong. Hit my irons really close, gave myself a lot of chances all week. Didn’t look at a lot of leaderboards.

“Just tried to post as low a score as I could every day. Yeah, I think on Sunday I remember looking at the scoreboard on 16 and I was — I think I was 4 ahead at that point and was shock and just tried to par my way in from there to finish it off.”

Though her second LPGA win has since eluded her, the surge in confidence that her first win afforded was evident as she’d go on to post top 10s in two of the ensuing major championships, including a career-best T4 at the AIG Women’s Open at Muirfield. With the women’s major roster altered slightly this year, the Chevron Championship at The Woodlands in Houston will now be the first major up for grabs and held at a slightly later date than previous years.

And clearly with the majors on her mind, Maguire is tailoring her schedule to give herself the best chance of improving on last year’s impressive major performances.

“I’m taking Hawaii off,” she explained. “Not going to Hawaii. Apart from that, get used to West Coast again, poana greens. I suppose the focus for them is more Pebble [Beach, host site of the 2023 Women’s US Open] than Chevron, but we did play an event my senior year at The Woodlands in Texas, so I’ve been there before, which is nice.

“Yeah, I mean, just trying to put myself in position, move myself as high up the leaderboard each week as I can and get in those positions to be ready for Chevron.”

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