Leona Maguire came back from a mid-round wobble and finished eagle-birdie to blast an eight-under 64 for a three-shot lead in the Meijer LPGA Classic in Michigan.
he Co Cavan star is chasing her maiden LPGA Tour win, and after failing to back up her first-round 65 to lead last week’s LPGA Mediheal Championship in San Francisco, she showed no mercy at Blythefield Country Club in Grand Rapids last night as she picked up five shots in her last six holes to head Australia’s Su Oh by three shots on 15 under par.
“I was really proud of how I came out today,” the Slieve Russell star said after she birdied three of her first four holes on the back nine, then added two more birdies at the 16th and 18th to turn in a blistering 31.
“Last week in San Francisco, I was leading after day one and struggled on day two, so it was nice to put up a really good number back to back in rounds one and two and even go one better today.
“It was really nice building on that momentum going into the weekend.”
She added: “I got off to a really nice start again today. It’s always nice to start with a birdie. Made a really good up and down on 11 to keep the momentum going—two really good birdies on 12 and 13.
“Just kept giving myself chances and holed some really nice putts as well. Struggled a little. Hit two bad drives on 10 and 11, but other than that, I felt like I played really, really solid all day.”
The presence of Shane Lowry’s former caddie Dermot Byrne on her bag also proved crucial after those bogeys at the 10th and 11th as she played the remaining holes in five-under.
“I think on this golf course, you have to be just really patient and trust that there is going to be chances,” she said.
“I knew there were two par-fives coming up on the back nine that hopefully I could birdie and maybe pick up a few more coming in.
“My caddie Dermot, that’s just what he reinforced in me. You’re playing good golf. Get back to fairways and greens, and we’ll take our chances coming in.”
After making birdie at the par-five fourth, she made another at the sixth before making eagle at the par-five eighth and birdie at the ninth to stretch her lead.
“I hit a really nice drive, and we were kind of in-between clubs,” she said of her eagle. “I absolutely flushed a five-hybrid. It went way further than I thought and pitched pin high and stayed on the green, and I holed a really nice putt for eagle.
“And another really nice putt on 9. That pin was really tucked. Just tried to be disciplined. Played 30 feet right of the hole and took my chance.”
Currently ranked 88th in the world, Maguire will make history if she becomes the first Irish player to win on the LPGA Tour, but she knows she has to keep her foot on the gas.
“Yeah, everybody is going low,” she said. “You know you have to go low. There is not really time to look around or even look behind. It’s sort of keep your foot down and keep going, make as many birdies as you can.
“I didn’t feel like I took advantage of the par-5s as well today as yesterday, so it was a nice bonus to get the eagle on 8 coming in.
“Everybody is going low, so you are just trying to make as many birdies as possible. You can’t really protect a lead. You can’t just try and make pars and stuff. You have to sort of go for everything.
“You have to hit a lot of fairways out here. It’s tough when you get in the rough. I knew all about that on 1 and 2.
“So a lot of fairways, a lot of greens, and hopefully, I can keep the putter hot over the weekend.”
As for her comfort level on a course that reminds her of the Dublin parklands Hermitage or Elm Park, she said: “I think any time you’re comfortable out on the golf course, it definitely helps. I felt pretty much at home this week. Bit warmer today, I think, than it is in Ireland, but maybe the rain this morning reminded me a bit more of home.
“Yeah, but I like the golf course. It suits my eye. Hopefully, I’ll keep liking it over the weekend.
Oh shot a bogey-free, seven-under 65 to lie second on 12-under with Lindy Duncan third on 11-under after a 65.
Five players are tied for fourth at 10-under — Mina Harigae, Brittany Altomare, Lizette Salas, Nelly Korda and Anna Nordqvist.
Stephanie Meadow shot rounds of 73 and 71 to miss the cut by three strokes on level par.
Maguire hit 11 of 13 fairways and 15 greens in regulation, taking 26 putts.
While she’s in her second season on the LPGA Tour, she is still considered a 2020/21 LPGA rookie.
She’s had four career top-10 finishes, including three this season, with her best result a tie for second at the LOTTE Championship in April.
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