Leona Maguire may have lost her undefeated Solheim Cup record, losing both of her foursomes matches alongside Anna Nordqvist at Finca Cortesin, but if anything, she’s bolstered her fearsome matchplay reputation with two fourball wins and a 4&3 destruction of rookie Rose Zhang in Sunday singles.
There was shades of Rory McIlroy v Patrick Reed at Hazeltine in 2016 as all six of the opening holes were won with birdie and the pair would’ve each been three-under had this been strokeplay. The big difference in the McIlroy v Reed match, was that neither men could keep the hammer down and though Reed would eventually close the match out with a birdie at the last, the dozen or so holes in between were scrappy and well below the breathtaking standard with which they’d opened.
In the Maguire v Zhang match, which was the second match out on the crucial final day at Finca Cortesin, the Cavan woman was relentless, and Zhang, in just her fourth month as a professional, was unable to withstand the onslaught. 1UP playing the par-3 10th, Maguire drilled a hybrid to three feet to double the advantage, and then, with Zhang hitting it close on the 11th, she chased a 7-iron to two feet and, feeling the weight of her opponent, Zhang missed her birdie putt and went three down.
Unbelievably, the best was yet to come and with the tees pushed up, the par-4 14th was reachable and Maguire’s drive split the bunkers and raced to the back of the green. From a full 50 feet, her eagle putt was never going anywhere but the centre of the cup and pushed her 4UP with four to play.
A par on the 15th was enough to secure the first point of the day and it was hard not to feel for Zhang, who has an incredible future ahead of her, but ran into an opponent who was terminator-like, but with less empathy.
“Yeah, it was just incredible today,” a beaming Maguire said afterwards. “The Irish fans this week have just been phenomenal. It felt like I was playing at home. It was just good energy.
“I mean, Rose is obviously a great player, I have a huge amount of respect for her and everything she’s done, and I knew I would have to bring my A game today. The crowds were unbelievable today cheering me on, so I did it for them.”
After losing all four matches in the opening foursomes session on Friday, that Europe came into the final day tied was thanks in no small measure to Maguire who inspired the comeback with her match winning chip in on Friday afternoon and then lead from the front in Saturday’s second fourball session as Europe drew level.
With Linn Grant and Maguire going out in positions one and two, and Carlotta Ciganda and Emily Pedersen going out in 11th and 12th respectively, European captain Suzann Pettersen was balancing her side with her most trusted lieutenants spearheading and anchoring the side.
“Suzann handed me a job this morning,” Maguire said. “I knew it was going to be tough. It was going to be a very tough opponent. It was important to get blue on the board early and it’s great.”
For the second successive Solheim Cup, Maguire was an ever-present, though unlike at Inverness two years ago when she was the only player to go five matches, both Grant and Pedersen joined her with full attendance this time round.
“Yeah, I mean, I love this team, I love playing in this event,” she said, dismissing any notion that tiredness was ever going to be a factor for her. “I think you want to play as many times as you possibly can. Suzann made it very clear a couple of months ago that I would be playing five, and I think with the energy of this crowd and everything, I could have played 10. So, it was great.”
Maguire’s record in Solheim Cups now goes to 7-2-1, though neither of the defeats which both came in foursomes could be placed on her shoulders entirely and she explained exactly why she thinks she is such a difficult opponent in matchplay.
“I just don’t give up,” she said. “I think someone said Jessica Korda tweeted the other day that I was annoying at match play, and that was the goal this week was to be as annoying as possible. Me and Suzann kind of had a running joke this week, do what Suzann would do, and I feel like that’s what she would have done today.”