Maguire hoping to follow in G-Mac’s footsteps with Pebble Beach glory

Mark McGowan

Leona Maguire (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Coming off a win at the Meijer LPGA Classic in Grand Rapids and a T11 finish at the subsequent KPMG Women’s PGA Championship where she led for much of the tournament, Leona Maguire arrives at Pebble Beach brimming with confidence ahead of the 78th U.S. Women’s Open and with precedence for Irish success at the famed Monterey course, it would be a dream come true for the County Cavan star if she could add one of the pinnacle events in women’s golf to her resume.

“Yeah, I think it’s everybody’s dream to win a major,” she said, “and to do it at a U.S. Open at Pebble would be incredibly special. But I suppose there’s a lot of golf to be played between now and Sunday, so we’ll take one round at a time and try and play as well as we possibly can.”

A disappointing final round at Baltusrol aside, life is pretty good for Maguire at present and a chance to tee it up at another of the United States’ finest golf courses with a major on the line is enough to ensure that any fatigue from her recent presence at the top of leaderboards.


“Yeah, feeling good,” she said when asked about the busy schedule. “I think it was nice to have a week off last week and sort of recharge and reset and be ready to go again. I think this is obviously going to be a really good test again this week. Been pretty spoiled the last few weeks. Some really, really good golf courses. I think Pebble is definitely living up to the hype. It’s a pretty cool place to be.”

Despite career top-10 finishes at three of the five women’s majors coming into the PGA – including a T-8 at last year’s U.S. Open and a T-4 at last year’s British Open, Baltusrol was the first time that she’d really been in the mix on a Sunday and she’s choosing to focus on the positives.

“Yeah, I think I played some really good golf,” she said. “It was nice to be in the last group for Saturday and Sunday. Showed me that I have the golf to be able to compete with the best players in the world. Yeah, some good momentum heading into the rest of the majors this summer.”

As for her first impressions on Pebble Beach and what might be the keys to a low scoring week at a venue that’s provided major championship wins for Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and Tiger Woods among others?

“Yeah, it’s a really good golf course,” she agreed. “I think the front nine is very different to the back nine. Front nine there’s obviously a lot more out on the cliffs and the water and everything. Back nine is a bit more inland. I think you really have to hit a lot of fairways, a lot of greens. Missing the greens, there’s a lot of really thick rough around the greens and chipping is really difficult. I think staying below the pins on the greens, as well, they’re pretty slick above them, so lots of greens, lots of fairways, and that will go a long way this week, I think.”

A neighbour of Graeme McDowell’s at Orlando’s Lake Nona, she’s naturally sought some advice from the man who ended Europe’s 40-year U.S. Open drought here in 2010.

“Yeah, I think course management is huge out here,” she replied when asked if she’d spoken to McDowell about Pebble Beach. “G-Mac talked about hitting to certain sections on greens and things like that, a lot of strategy. He’s not the longest hitter, nor am I, so I think strategy is key when you come to a place like this. Obviously Dermot [Byrne, Maguire’s caddie] has been here a bunch of times before, so he has his own strategies on theories from being around here quite a few times.”

Good form aside, Maguire is well aware that U.S. Opens are an attritional test and, similar to the recent KPMG PGA, you can’t get too far ahead of yourself and take it one hole at a time.

“Yeah, I think avoid any expectations,” she explained when asked how she dealt with pressure on the big weeks. “I think it’s one of these golf courses you just have to enjoy the challenge of it. We’ll try and execute on the targets we’ve picked and ultimately see where that ends up at the end of the week.”

In spite of her strong performance at Baltusrol, Stephanie Meadow hadn’t qualified to compete at Pebble Beach, but Maguire has another Irish compatriot in Louisiana State University student Aine Donegan, though the Clare girl, who qualified by way of a 36-hole examination at Peninsula Golf Club last month, has had far from the ideal preparation.

Though Donegan arrived safely and on time in Monterey, her golf clubs did not and though United Airlines would eventually deliver her bag a day late, it didn’t arrive fully intact and Donegan was faced with a broken driver on the effective eve of her first major championship.

“Yeah, I was chatting to her earlier,” Maguire said when asked what advice she might give to Donegan on her major debut. “I think she played a practice round with Annika [Sorenstam] this morning, so I think Annika probably had a lot more wisdom to pass on than I would yet, but it’s obviously a fantastic achievement for her to even be here to qualify, and hopefully she has a fantastic week. It’s obviously her first major, so it’s a pretty special one to be able to say your first major was a Pebble Beach.

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