Leona Maguire only had twin sister Lisa to offer Irish support from the sidelines when she made her Solheim Cup debut amidst the post-Covid travel restrictions of 2021 at The Inverness Club in Ohio, but she’s expecting things to be quite different this time as the entire family are set to gather in Andalucía, and, as always, whenever possible, the Irish will travel in great numbers to cheer on one of their own.
“Yeah, really excited,” she said in her Tuesday Press Conference at Finca Cortesin alongside fellow team leader and reigning Evian Championship title holder Celine Boutier. “There was quite a lot of Irish people heading over on my flight, even on Sunday, and then today there was quite a few tricolors out there, a few people dressed up already today, which is pretty impressive for a Tuesday. So yeah, really excited and nice to have the fans cheering along and everybody so excited for us to be here. Hopefully we can give them some things to cheer about.”
Although the golf course has hosted the Volvo World Matchplay on three occasions, this is the first time that the top ladies stars will take to it in a competitive nature, and the Cabell B. Robinson designed course has been re-routed to ensure maximum drama from the off with the regular fourth hole – a drivable par-4 over water – playing as the first meaning that there will be no opportunities for players to ease their way into the high-pressure environment.
“Yeah, it’s really good,” she said when asked her early impressions of Finca Cortesin. “Played 18 this morning. Nice to see them all. Yeah, there’s some really good variety. I think the par-3s are really strong. It’s just an exciting first hole to start off with, with the percentage for people driving the green. The greens are tricky. They’re pretty slopey in places. They’re getting faster, they’re grainy, so I think with any Solheim Cup, putting will be the key this week.”
Typically quiet and reserved with the world watching, Maguire allowed an emotional side of her rarely seen to come out at Inverness, and there were shades of that personality on display when the American press tried to ascertain whether her appearance alongside Boutier held any clues as to exactly who she may be partnered with when play gets underway on Friday morning.
“No,” she responded with a wry smile and a sidewards glance. “We spent two years at Duke together. Celine’s just missed me so much this summer she wanted to do her press conference with me. She said she’s going to say a lot of nice things.”
“Yeah, no comment,” Boutier countered, to much amusement.
Despite the light-hearted nature of the back and forth, the media members were not to be deterred and she was queried again about potential partners and to what extent she’d liaised with European Captain Suzann Pettersen about her fourball or foursomes pairings.
“Yeah, I think we have a fantastic team this week,” she responded in a more serious fashion. “I think there’s lots of options of who can play with who. It’s obviously a new team and you’ll see some familiar pairings and some new pairings. She’s done a lot of these, she’s done nine herself, so she knows what she’s doing. So I think both myself and Celine are pretty flexible. We’ll play with just about anybody, so we’re going to do whatever Suzann needs us to do this week.”
Despite Maguire’s record-setting rookie performance, she is well aware that past performances count for nothing and that she is going to have to bring her ‘A’ game if she’s going to come anyway close to repeating the heroics.
“Yeah, I mean, obviously last time went about as well as it possibly could have,” she explained, “but it’s a brand-new event this time, it’s a brand-new venue, a brand-new team, both on the Europe and the U.S. side. I think the U.S. have a fantastic team this time. I think they have a young team that’s ready to go.
“Yeah, ultimately, I’ll try and win as many points as I can, but we’ll just prepare as well as we can and go in with very little expectations like the last time, the same way as I approach any other event. Just because it’s worked well in the past doesn’t really make much difference for this time.
“It almost feels a little bit like a rookie again playing on home soil. This is all still a new experience for me, so just try and enjoy the week as much as I can and feed off the energy of the crowd as much as I can.”
Asked to describe the inspiration that Maguire’s performance had on the European side last time round, Boutier was glowing in her praise. “Yeah, her last performance was essentially flawless,” she said, “so, yeah, very impressive. I think she’s a very steady and consistent player, great around the greens, definitely a very good putter, so I feel like it’s going to be definitely a weapon for match play. Her performance from the last edition of the Solheim Cup definitely shows that. So, yeah, I definitely would not want to be paired against Leona.”
Maguire’s final words were to express her admiration for Suzann Pettersen and how communicative she has been in recent times and how she is trying to create the perfect environment for the Europeans to best express themselves on the golf course.
“Yeah, I mean, she’s obviously very competitive,” she said, “she has an unbelievable record, so we really want to win for her.
“But she’s been great, she’s been very open, she’s been very transparent with everything this week, she’s been communicating a lot with what she’s thinking about pairings and different things. So, yeah, she’s trying to get all of our inputs and really wants what’s best for the team. Ultimately we have to hit the shots, so it’s a little bit out of her control, but she’s been really good so far.”