Leona Maguire tees the 13th hole during the second round of the LPGA LOTTE championship at Kapolei Golf Club in Hawaii. Photo by Christian Petersen / Getty Images
Leona Maguire plans to keep stepping on the gas to advance to the finals of the $ 2 million LOTTE Championship after a career of seven under 65 years old to have the chance to become the first Irish player to win the LPGA Tour.
The Slieve Russell National Star (26) stormed the five-under-31 corner at Kapolei Golf Club, Oahu, to the corner and recovered from her lone bogey on the 11th with a birdie on the 14th and an eagle two on the 15th, where she hauled a wedge off the fairway to get a margin of 16 under par.
She finally ended the day as solo fourth, five strokes behind former world number 1, Lydia Ko, who birded four of her last five holes to match Maguire’s 65 and led to 21 under with one stroke from Nelly Korda, who shot 63.
Ballyconnell is getting after a shortened debut in 2020 another newcomer to the LPGA tour. Ballyconnell’s pride is not impressed by the big names ahead of her, and she still plans to attack Hawaii for a low-scoring week in today’s finals for her first visit to Hawaii.
« Yes, there are a lot of big players in front of me, « said Leona. “Obviously Lydia and Nelly are right there and have been doing this for a while. But no, I mean, it’s the same attitude as it is today. Today was a moving day.
“I knew I had to go deep to keep up with those in front of and around me. It will be the same tomorrow. Unless they get mad at us and stick a few pins in it. It’s really about going as deep as you can and seeing where it piles up at the end of the day. «
She added, » People have little to do here all week. You’re just trying to keep up with everyone and do as many birdies as possible. You don’t have time to think about it.
“I felt comfortable here all week. I am really enjoying my first time in Hawaii which is very nice. It’s kind of a chill place so try and bring that to the golf course. “
After Maguire won twice on the Symetra Tour of the second stage in 2019 to qualify for the LPGA Tour, he wants to fight for the Solheim Cup and Olympic glory this season.
She showed that she improved her game by one gear when she finished sixth in the LPGA Drive On Championship last month and then got off to a strong start in the season’s inaugural major, ANA Inspiration, before dropping to 28th place. « I got off to a very quick start, » said Maguire, who made the first, second and fifth birdie and before picking up more shots on the seventh and ninth. “I hadn’t made the most of those first six holes in the first two days, so it was nice to have a quick start today.
“ It just gave me a lot of chances. I did some nice iron punches and rolled a couple of putts. I suppose the big thing this week is taking advantage of the par 5 when you can.
“It’s all about giving yourself so many chances on these greens. There are some pens that you need to be a bit more secure with and some that you need to access them directly. «
As for her two eagle on the 15th, where her wedge was a few feet from the needle and twisted sideways into the hole, she said, » I didn’t see him go in. It was a nice number for us. We discussed between 55 degrees and a wedge for me and just picked up a bit of wind. And that’s exactly what it did on the back nine. It spun around a little, it fell, it gained.
« Hit exactly where I wanted the flag, just right. I loved it and then Mi Hyang started cheering so felt like it went in which is just a bonus. “
In terms of the state of her game, she has been in great shape so far this season. She has landed nearly 20 yards from teeing off and has improved her iron game by switching to graphite shafts that allow her to hit higher approaches into solid greens. « It’s been tight for a few weeks, » said Leona who won her second career top 10 in the Drive On LPGA Championship before playing the first two days in the first major of the season.
“I put together some really nice rounds at ANA a few weeks ago and didn’t benefit as much from it as I would have liked.
“But this side of the year played really well and put a lot of work into the off-season. I changed my irons, which helped me a lot and gave me a lot more chances.
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« I recorded a little more yards, which also helps with some of the holes that go into these front pins with shorter irons, especially. Yes, it all fits together quite well. “
Maguire will play halfway in the final against Japanese Yuka Saso (19) who struggled with an under 71-year-old to knock four out of 17.
The Cavan star will face Ireland in the finals as Ko’s caddy is Northern Irishman David Jones, who regularly drives for the Rolex # 14 rankings at Sung Hyun Park.
The two have worked together for a while in 2020, and Ko knows that Jones’ help had been a necessity for the past three days, even though their partnership could soon end.
« I said to David when we were 18 years old we are like a relationship contract show. We know when we’re going to end, « Ko said.
» But it was fun, and when I got into this week it was kind of a last minute search for someone, and since Dave was someone who had worked together before, I felt pretty comfortable. «
The Irish Stephanie Meadow is three strokes away from the pace after the first round of the Lotte Championship in Oahu.
Leona Maguire continued her great start to the season when she finished birdie-birdie and was just a shot away from leading the clubhouse at the LOTTE championship in Hawaii.
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