Maguire's brilliant form continues as she ties for second in Hawaii
Leona Maguire moves ever closer to her maiden win on the LPGA Tour after she finished a career-best tied second at the LOTTE Championship in Hawaii last weekend.
Maguire’s stellar performance also brings her into strong contention for a place on the European Solheim Cup team who take on the USA in Ohio in September.
Maguire’s finish was the best ever by an Irish player on the LPGA Tour and marked her second runner-up finish following her play-off defeat in the European Masters in 2015.
The Ballyconnell star has added length off the tee of late and allied to what has always been a superb short game, she has found a rich vein of form.
On the final day, she hit every fairway en route to a 67 which left her tied second on 21-under. The tournament was won by superstar Lydia Ko, whose record for weeks spent on top of the World Amateur Golf Rankings, incidentally, Maguire broke before turning pro.
"I've been calling home and calling my coach and saying, it's close, it's close," Leona told Irish Golf Desk.
"So it really is close now. I played really nice this week. Drove the ball really well. Today was probably the best all week today. Irons were solid all week. Putted nicely. Not the best I've ever putted, but nicely.
"Everything is trending very nicely in the right direction. I knew Lydia was going to go low today, and I was going to have to do something very special to try and catch her.
“Proud of the way I finished strong,” she said.
She picked up a cheque for $125,834 (€105,000) and moved up to 10th in the LPGA's Race to CME Globe Points List.
Next up is her first trip to Wilshire Country Club for this week's LA Open.
"Yeah, absolutely. Try and carry forward this momentum," Leona said. "Obviously, it's a quick turnaround being a Wednesday start again. I don't know the new golf course, somewhere we haven't been before.
“I got off to a nice start again. It was 3-under through six and, just trying to get as many birdies as I can,” she said afterwards. “I kept giving myself a lot of chances 9, 10, 11; just didn’t get those putts to drop. But I just played really solid all day. Hit my irons nice. Played smart. Didn’t hit a great shot into 15 and three-putted that one. Had a really nice up and down on 16.
“Probably hit the best shot of the week on 17 to make that eagle which kind of made up for it. Got a little bit lucky on 18. Didn’t hit my best shot into 18.
“Yeah, really happy with the week. I think it’s my best on the LPGA so far, so my first trip to Hawaii was a very productive one, I would say.”
Leona’s father Declan stated that she was tired but very happy to have posted such a fine performance.
“I suppose it’s the relief of knowing that you can compete with the Lexi Thompsons, the Kordas and the Kos. It’s within her grasp now and it’s just a case of everything happening in a tournament on the weekend and getting across the line,” Declan told the Anglo-Celt.
“She was sixth before and third last year and now she’s down to second so the next step would be hopefully a win but that’s probably the most difficult step, getting across the line.
“If she could do it once then she’d really move forward, it’s just getting that first one behind you is always the hardest. The issue with the Solheim Cup is that there are so many places guaranteed with the world rankings and stuff like that but her world ranking [116th] probably doesn’t reflect how she is playing at the moment because it works on a two-year cycle and with Covid last year they actually paused it at one point so it’s almost working on a two and a half year cycle.
“How they work it out is kind of complicated but Leona started on the Symetra Tour and the points you get on the Symetra are not going to be nearly as valuable as points you get from finishes on the LPGA Tour.
“A lot of her competeitions that are counting for world ranking points at the moment are from back in 2018, when she started at the end of that year on the Symetra Tour.
“When she’s able to drop some of them off and replace them with the likes of last weekend, hopefully she will be able to climb up the world rankings much quicker.
“At the minute, she is being held back on the rankings because of the two year cycle so it will probably be well into the summer before she can hopefully get up the rankings. You can only drop off one week at a time so it will take until then before she sees a true reflection.
“Because of that she probably will depend on the captain, Cathriona Matthews, picking her, but if she keeps playing the way she’s playing, she’ll hopefully get one of those six picks.”
Declan feels that Leona plays her best golf when she is in contention and the pressure is on.
“I was very happy for her that she really went for it but I had that confidence in her. If you look back at her college career, any time she got in the mix or near the mix, she really went for it, she never backed off.”
Leona tees it up in Los Angeles today (Wednesday) and will, due to her world ranking, play in a qualifier for the US Open on Monday next.
“If she’s not too tired after the weekend and gets a run at it, you never know,” said Declan.