Leona Maguire produced an incredible closing eight-under 64 to capture her second LPGA Tour title at the Meijer LPGA Classic, edging out playing partner Ariya Jutanugarn by two and Xiyu Lin by three.
Having finished runner-up twice in two starts at Blythefield Country Club in Belmont, Michigan, she may have felt that she was owed something, but nothing is ever handed to you in sport and Maguire would have to go out and take it.
Starting the day two back in a tie for fifth, and in the penultimate group, Maguire knew that she’d likely need something similar to last year’s final round where she scythed through the field with a seven-under to join Nelly Korda and Jennifer Kupcho in a playoff that she’d ultimately lose on the second hole.
Despite failing to take advantage of both par-5s on the front, she’d birdie both par-3s to make the turn at -2, three back.
But the back nine is where she’s done the majority of her scoring for the week and the final round was no exception. Another par-3 birdie came at the 13th, before a laser-like 3-wood saw her reach the par-5 14th in two and she’d drain the eight-footer for eagle to get within one.
Clearly feeling it, she’d wedge to 18-inches at the par-4 16th to tie Amy Yang and Xiyu Lin, and the former would double bogey the same hole to leave Maguire and Lin alone at the top.
Yet another pinpoint approach, this time from 102 yards on 17, set up a slippery five-footer. Starting the putt about two cups left and deadweight, it fell in the sidedoor and she was alone at the top.
The final hole, a par-5, has mixed memories for the Cavan star. She’d navigated it in three-under for her three previous rounds this week, but it was also where she missed a two-footer in the playoff to hand victory to Kupcho the previous year.
Back behind, Lin was feeling the heat and a pulled tee shot and a short approach saw her end up with a 20-footer for par that’d just slide by leaving Maguire, who was eyeing up a 220-yard second shot, two clear. She’d come up just short, leaving a relatively straightforward pitch where up-and-down would all but guarantee victory.
And she almost holed it, the ball just sliding by on the right side, leaving an 18-inch putt that would force Lin to do the unimaginable and hole-out for an albatross, which she failed to do.
She came into the week with just one eagle on her 2023 resume, but she’d triple the tally this week, covering the final six holes in an incredible six-under, and now heads to next week’s KPMG PGA Championship brimming with confidence.
“I was kind of wondering what I had to do to get a win here,” a beaming Maguire said afterwards, “and I played well leading into this week. I tried to be patient and it was nice to go bogey-free on Sunday. My goal was to get to 20-under and it was nice to go one better than that.”
Since capturing her maiden big-tour title at the LPGA Drive On Championship last February, she’d come close but that second win had eluded her until today. “Yeah,” she said, “I felt like I played some really good golf last year and missed out on a playoff here and came second at CME, but you have to play really good golf out here, it’s tough, so it’s a really nice feeling to get this one especially heading into the majors that we’ve got coming up.”
Interestingly, since it was first staged in 2014, every previous winner of the Meijer LPGA Classic has gone on to become a major champion, and hopes will be high that Maguire can continue the trend and what better place for a KPMG sponsored athlete to do it than at the KPMG PGA Championship?
“I feel like my game is in really good shape, I had my coach over last week which was nice to help fine tune a few things and he’s in the air as we speak on his way to Newark so I’ll catch up with him again next week. So yeah, more of the same, I think. Stay patient and give myself as many chances as I can.”
And it wasn’t just Maguire that had a great Sunday. Stephanie Meadow carded her second successive four-under 68 to climb to 13th on the leaderboard, her best finish of the season to date and she was on hand to congratulate her fellow countrywoman in the scoring tent afterwards.