Leona Maguire moves into contention at ISPS Handa World Invitational

In the men’s tournament Cork’s John Murphy leads the home challenge

Leona Maguire did what Leona Maguire does these days in moving into contention in the ISPS Handa World Invitational as she chases a second LPGA Tour win of the year, the 27-year-old Co Cavan golfer added a 69 to her opening 68 for a midway total of 137 to trail leader American Amanda Doherty by three strokes.

Maguire, fresh off a career-best fourth-placed Major finish in the AIG Women’s Open last week, continued her strong form in negotiating the firm conditions at lough-side Massereene while she will regret a number of birdie chances that went abegging.

A video of her executing a recovery shot from a greenside bunker at Galgorm Castle in Thursday’s opening round went viral, and she again showed her imagination at Massereene with a 9-wood approach over trees to the sixth hole where she set up an eagle opportunity but instead had to settle for a birdie.

Maguire was the only Irish woman to make the cut — with Steph Meadow and Olivia Mehaffey missing out — and returns to Galgorm for the final two rounds with the intent to “go low” in her bid to claim a second career win on the LPGA circuit.


In the men’s tournament that runs simultaneously with the women’s at the same two parkland courses, Cork’s John Murphy — dipping into the main circuit from the Challenge Tour — led the home challenge with a 69 for 136 to trail leader Ewen Ferguson of Scotland by five strokes heading into the weekend.

Murphy, in tied-ninth, was one of five Irish players to make the cut — along with David Carey, Paul Dunne (both tied-41st), Gary Hurley and Tom McKibbin (in tied-54th) — but, given the nature of the tournament, a 54-hole second cut must be achieved to progress to the final round.

Ferguson, who opened with a stunning 61 in the first round at Galgorm, was brought back to earth with a 70 for 131 that gave him a one-stroke lead over Spain’s Borja Virto at the halfway point of the tournament on the DP World Tour.

In the FedEx St Jude Championship in Memphis on the PGA Tour, Rory McIlroy’s return to competition after a three-week break since the Open ended poorly as the number three signed for a second round 69 for a midway total of 139, one under par, that was set to see him miss the cut in a tournament for the first time since the Valero Texas Open in April. Séamus Power also missed the cut.

Shane Lowry, however, produced a second successive 68 for a midway total of four-under-par 136 that had him comfortably inside the cut mark and positioned inside the top 35 with a weekend opportunity to progress further up the leader board.

Austria’s Sepp Straka birdied four of the closing five holes for a 66 for 130, 10-under-par, to claim the clubhouse lead in a performance that came out of the blue after a run of six straight missed cuts stretching back to the US Open in June.

“That’s golf. You’re going to have the ebbs and flows and just kind of go with it,” said Straka of bouncing back at the right time in a tournament that is the first of three FedEx Cup playoff events.

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times