Maguire battles to level-par opener at tough Walton Heath

Mark McGowan

Leona Maguire (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Despite a saturating six weeks in the lead up to the AIG Women’s British Open, and with little wind worth speaking of, Walton Heath proved no push over for the early starters on day one of the 48th staging of the major championship.

Teeing off at 08:09, Leona Maguire was among the 11th group to take to the heathland course in southeast England and recorded six straight pars before opening her birdie account with a three on the par-4 seventh, but she’d give that shot back two holes later when she bogeyed the par-3 ninth and made the turn at level-par.

Four more pars marked her start to the back nine, but a bogey at the 14th dropped her to +1. Usually among the most accurate off the tee and with a high greens-in-regulation percentage, the course was proving tricky and she’d miss four of the 15 fairways and five of the 18 greens, but, in danger of letting the round slip away, she’d respond with a sublime up-and-down from the greenside bunker at the par-5 16th to get back to even for the day and she’d par her way home to sign for an opening 72 that’s just two off the early lead.


That mark is held by the early-starting trio of Japan’s Nasa Hataoka, Mexican Gaby Lopez and Spain’s Carlota Ciganada. Ciganda, controversially, had refused to sign for a two-stroke penalty when adjudged guilty of excessive slow play at the recent Evian Championship, but answered her critics in ideal fashion while Hataoka, one of the most consistent performers in the year’s major championships, rebounded from a double bogey-seven at the sixth to fire six birdies in the round and take the early clubhouse lead.

“I think majors require a lot of mental energy just as much as physical,” Maguire said speaking to Sky Sports when asked what she’d learned from her 54-hole lead at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and how it could help her this week. “I think I underestimated how much the win the week before took out of me and I was probably a bit too overkeen with practice and everything and I ran out of steam by the time Sunday came around. But I took a lot of confidence at the same time, knowing that I could be up around the lead for three of the four rounds in a major and I just need to put four together now.”

Maguire’s birdie on 16 that saw her get back to level for the day could prove to be crucial come the weeks end, especially given that it looked a lot more routine on television than it actually was.

“That’s probably the deepest bunker on the course,” she explained, “so I could see absolutely nothing from down there so it was nice to see it roll out and always nice to have a short birdie putt on these greens.”

Stephanie Meadow and Elm Park amateur Anna Foster are among the later starters, but Nelly Korda and Lydia Ko were among the early starters who’ll end the day in plus figures, shotting rounds of one and two-over respectively, while Charley Hull’s quest to provide a home winner began in strong fashion with an opening one-under 71.


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