Stephanie Meadow in late push for place at Tour Championship finale

Irish golfers in fight to retain tour cards at Valderrama

Northern Ireland’s Stephanie Meadow was left to rue a disappointing final round 75 in the Mediheal Championship at The Saticoy Club in California, eventually finishing in a tie for 32nd place ($10,219) behind first-time winner Jodi Ewart Shadoff, having at one point been joint leader during the opening round and tied third going into the weekend.

The 30-year-old Jordanstown native improved just one place to 78th on the LPGA Tour’s Race to CME standings – Leona Maguire is in 15th place despite not playing last week – but would hope to have progressed further given her excellent start.

Meadow, who has missed just seven cuts in 21 events and earned two top-0 finishes at the JTB Classic and the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, is chasing a place in the top 60 in the rankings that would guarantee a place in the season finale CME Group Tour Championship at the Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, Florida, from November 17th-20th.

She admitted: “It is what we all play for. It’s bonus money, right? That is our year-end, that is our reward for playing good all year. Obviously the purse is huge, we play to win out here too, but making the Tour Championship is still special.”

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Meadow will play the final three tournaments in pursuit of that goal, the BMW Ladies Championship at the Oak Valley Country Club in Korea (October 20th-23rd), where Maguire will resume her tour schedule, and then the Toto Japan Classic in Shiga (November 3rd-6th) and finally the Pelican Women’s Championship (November 10th-13th) in Belleair, Florida.

Maguire, who hasn’t teed it up since the KPMG Irish Open at Dromoland Castle, will play a Ladies European Tour (LET) sanctioned event this week, the Aramco Team Series, New York, at Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point.

The 54-hole stroke play tournament take place alongside a 36-hole team event with each having a prize pool of €514,750. The Korda sisters, Nelly and Jessica. head a sizeable American contingent in a field of 78 players while 13 winners from the 2022 LET tour season, including the Irish Open winner Klara Spilkova, will be taking part.

Meanwhile US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick will defend the Andalucía Masters title he won last season at Valderrama this week.

The tournament marks the second of three consecutive DP World Tour events in Spain, before the tour shifts across the Iberian Peninsula to the Portugal Masters, followed by the Nedbank Open in South Africa. The 2022 schedule culminates in the season finale DP World Tour Championship in Dubai (November 17th-20th).

Fitzpatrick said: “Valderrama is a true test and winning at a venue with so much history is always going to be memorable. But the manner of the win last year – staying patient on Sunday and going bogey-free – made it even more special.

“This has been a great season for me so far, and there’s no doubt that the US Open win was a highlight. There is so much to play for over the rest of the season, especially with the Ryder Cup points race now up and running, and I’m looking forward to another good week in Sotogrande.”

A quintet of Irish golfers, Niall Kearney, Jonathan Caldwell, Paul Dunne, Cormac Sharvin and Gavin Moynihan will be hoping to find some way of improving flagging hopes of retaining a tour card in Valderrama this week.

Also taking place at the Sotogrande venue is a Golf for Disabled (G4D) tournament, the last of seven counting events before the season finale in Dubai. Ireland’s Brendan Lawlor shot a three over par 74 yesterday (Monday) to lie in third place behind England’s Kipp Poppert (68), who has won three times this season.

Lawlor managed four birdies but five bogeys, including the 17th and 18th and an earlier double-bogey on the par-five fourth, made a significant dent. The Dundalk native will be hoping for better fortune on Tuesday over his final round in the 36-hole tournament.

On the Challenge Tour, Northern Ireland’s Tom McKibbin will lead a strong Irish contingent – the final field has yet to be finalised – for the English Trophy at Frilford Heath, the final tournament before the season-ending Rolex Challenge Tour Grand Final at the Golf de Alcanada in Spain, where the top 45 players on the Road to Mallorca Rankings will compete for 20 cards for the DP World Tour.

McKibbin currently lies in 15th place in the standings with John Murphy (42nd), Ruaidhri McGee (46th) and Conor Purcell (64th) also within touching distance.

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan is an Irish Times sports writer