Leona Maguire put in a superb performance on moving day at the IOA Classic at Alaqua Country Club as she recorded a three-under par round to move to T13 place heading to the final day.
Maguire, who has struggled to find some form in recent weeks, dug deep following her opening level par round to fire five birdies, including one on each of her opening and closing holes to move up the leaderboard into a 9-way tie for 13th place.
Finishing as high as she can on the leaderboard is of course the short-term goal but with LPGA ambitions and her sitting 7th in the Volvik Race for the Card (where the top-10 qualify for the LPGA proper) heading to the final week of the season, a strong performance this week was very important.
While Maguire lost some ground to the tournament leader in Florida she muscled her way from a T38 position after day one and although she is now 8 shots off the leaders pace she can make some ground on the other players ahead of her with a strong final round.
Having been in a 3-way tie for the lead after day one, Marta Sanz Barrio is now out on her own at the top on 11-under par and holds a one shot lead over one of her first round co-leaders Sophia Popov.
The performance so far leads to Sanz Barrio’s fourth appearance in a final pairing this year. Her previous opportunities came at the Windsor Golf Classic, IOA Invitational and most recently the Sioux Falls GreatLIFE Challenge, where she was also out front going into the final round.
“I wanted to make birdie on No. 9 for sure after No. 8 because it was stupid, didn’t think it through and made a mistake,” said Sanz Barrio (Spain), referring to her only blemish on the day of double bogey at the par-4 8th. “I gave myself a chance for tomorrow. I feel that I’m more ready than I’ve ever been and experience will play on my side, or so I hope. I didn’t do well the last few times, but want to get it done.”
Sophia Popov (Germany) completes the final pairing following a 3-under par 68 in the second round. She heads to Sunday in central Florida at 10-under overall.
With seven top-10 results in 11 starts on the Symetra Tour so far this season, Popov is looking to finally seal the deal for her first professional win on the “Road to the LPGA.” The University of Southern California alumna has also competed in eight LPGA Tour events in 2019.
“If I had to guess, it will take more of an effort like the first day,” said Popov, who went 7-under in the first round. “I did see the winds are supposed to pick up a little, so it really depends on the conditions. Everyone is going to be attacking pins and making a lot of putts, can see a lot of low scores again. I think I have to keep making birdies to have a chance. I’m excited to be in position again to maybe grab a win. It’s a good spot to be in, one shot behind.”