Maguire the matchplay queen

Mark McGowan

Leona Maguire (Photo by Orlando Ramirez/Getty Images)

Mark McGowan

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Back during last year’s Solheim Cup, Jessica Korda, sister of current world number one Nelly, was so impressed with Leona Maguire’s matchplay prowess that she took to Twitter – was it still called ‘Twitter then? – to highlight the fact.

“Leona is so good at matchplay it’s so annoying,” she tweeted, as Maguire was almost singlehandedly keeping herself and Anna Nordqvist in the opening foursomes match against the younger Korda sister and reigning US Women’s Open champion Allisen Corpuz. And though the American duo would eventually prevail 1UP, Jessica’s tweet would prove prophetic and a few hours later, an 18th hole chip in from the Cavan star would see her and Georgia Hall snatch victory from the jaws of defeat against Lexi Thompson and then world number one Lilia Vu, and prove the catalyst for a European comeback that would see them make history by keeping the Solheim Cup on European soil for a third successive term.

And the thing is, Maguire’s form had been patchy before arriving at Finca Cortesin, but there is something about matchplay and the Solheim Cup in particular that seems to bring the best out of Maguire.

Her maiden Solheim Cup appearance back in 2021 saw her go undefeated, amassing 4.5 points and being the only player of the 24 involved to play all five matches. Her maiden LPGA Bank of Hope Matchplay appearance saw her win all three of her group matches, cruise through the round of 16 and quarter-finals, before narrowly falling to Ayaka Furue in the semi-final.

Her loss to Korda and Corpuz was her only defeat at last year’s Solheim Cup – again playing all five matches – and now she’s into the quarterfinal again at the new-look LPGA Matchplay in 2024.

‘Solid, but not spectacular’ may be the fairest way to describe Leona’s form coming into each of the three matchplay events detailed here, but over the three qualifying rounds designed to reduce the field to eight at the incredibly tough and exacting Shadow Creek in Las Vegas, Maguire’s play was nothing short of ‘spectacular’. Nobody covered the 54 holes better and nobody was withing three which sees her take the number one seed as the tournament moves to knockout matchplay.

Rose Zhang, Morija Jutanugarn and Angel Yin are among the other seven qualifiers, as is a certain Nelly Korda.

Three wins in her last three LPGA starts has the tall, big-hitting Florida native back at the top of the world rankings, and conveniently placed on the other side of the draw, a potential final opponent should both she and Maguire progress all the way.

There’s a long way to go and lot of big hurdles for each of them to climb, but Jessica Korda, who’ll naturally be on her sister’s side, may well find herself tweeting something similar again.

Nelly may be the world number one, but when it comes to matchplay, Leona may be the rightful queen of the course.

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