Monday, July 22, 2024

Maguire eyeing maiden major title after breaking Irish LET duck – Irish Golfer Magazine

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Leona Maguire’s last tournament win saw her arrive at the 2023 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship riding the crest of a wave that propelled her to the 54-hole lead before the energy reserves ran dry on a stop-start final day.

Just over a year later, she arrives at the Amundi Evian Championship in France less than a week after becoming the first Irish woman ever to win on the Ladies European Tour, thus brimming with confidence and looking to tap into the kind of form she showed in 2021 when she dismantled Evian Resort on the final day to shoot a major championship record-equalling 61 enroute to her first ever top-10 finish in a major championship.

There’s been a lot of water under the bridge since then, and she’s become a two-time LPGA Tour winner, a two-time Solheim Cup participant and of course, a Ladies European Tour winner to boot. But major championship glory – and a proper run at one down the stretch – still eludes her and that’s something she’ll be keen to put right.

Stephanie Meadow is the only other Irish representative, and a promising start to 2024 appears to have petered out as a combination of illness and lack of form have combined to see her miss four of the last five cuts and she is looking to turn her season round and play her way into the top-60 in the LPGA rankings which would see her qualify for the season-ending CME Globe Championship.

Defending champion Celine Boutier was naturally an extremely popular winner for the locals, but she’s yet to fire in 2024 and has just one top-10 finish to her name, so the bookmakers don’t fancy a repeat victory.

Instead, Nelly Korda is the favourite despite coming in off the back of three successive missed cuts. She’s been in the top 10 in both of the last two stagings here at Evian Resort, and was the hottest golfer on the planet as she racked up six wins in seven starts earlier in the season, but she’s gone off the boil since coming undone on the 12th hole (her third) of the opening round of the U.S. Women’s Open and it could go either way.

Instead, it’s world number two Lilia Vu, Yuka Saso and Amy Yang who have been firing on all cylinders, with the former winning the Meijer LPGA Classic and finishing runner up at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, the latter winning on the tight and taxing Sahalee to join the club of major champions, and Saso collecting her second U.S. Women’s Open title.

But one of the joys of Evian Resort is its unpredictability. Among the quirkier courses the pros encounter all year, wild elevation changes, heavily tilting fairways, but the setting is sublime, perched on the hillside above lake Geneva, and the average golfer leaves with a sense of wonder. The tour pro, on the other hand, often leaves with a sense of frustration and the spectacular views are little consolation.

In many ways this makes it prime ground for a bolter from the pack or for one of the nearly women of major championships to make that all-important breakthrough. Maguire is a prime candidate, as are the likes of Charley Hull, Linn Grant, Rose Zhang, and Miyuu Yamashita.

Maguire is set to get her tournament underway alongside Hinako Shibuno of Japan and Albane Valenzuela of Switzerland. They head off tee number one at 12:55 Irish time, with Meadow last of the early morning starters at 08:00 with Lindy Duncan of the United States and England’s Jodi Ewart Shadoff.

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