Leona Maguire flies to front of field at Pelican Championship with stunning 62

Irish star cards course record in Florida as she looks to finish season with a win

Inwardly, we're sure she's smiling; outwardly, Leona Maguire conveys all the attributes of a silent assassin on a mission with her eyes hidden behind wraparound sunglasses and a little fist pump to herself on the 18th green the only display of emotion as the 26-year-old Co Cavan player coolly and calmly claimed eight birdies in a bogey-free opening round of 62 to assume the first round lead in the Pelican Championship in Belleaire, Florida.

That Lexi Thompson and defending champion Sei Young Kim – who had excellent rounds of their own– were the closest eye-witnesses to Maguire's exploits in one of the marquee groups tells its own story in where the Irishwoman moves these days, among the higher echelons of the LPGA Tour.

“I’m just being more comfortable in these sort of pairings. Obviously Sei Young and Lexi are two of the best players in world. Sei Young got off to a hot start. She knows how to play this golf course well. So just a case of trying to hang on and ride her momentum a little bit, and Lexi as well,” said Maguire of her course record round.

“It was pretty stress free,” added Maguire, who had her coach Shane O’Grady at a tournament for the first time stateside in almost two years. “It’s nice having him here. Yeah, it’s all just clicking nicely.”


In the final regular event of the season before next week’s Tour Championship, Maguire – who was the star of the show in Europe’s Solheim Cup win in September but now back doing it all for herself – made a strong start in her quest to add a breakthrough win on the circuit to her increasingly impressive curriculum vitae.

Maguire hit the birdie trail form the off, following a birdie on the first with another on the second, again on the seventh and, then, a wonderful tee-shot on the par-three ninth to three feet to turn in 31. And she maintained the momentum on the back nine, rolling in a 30-footer from the fringe of the green on the 12th and claiming another on the par-five 14th before hitting a magical nine-wood tee shot to eight feet on the 15th. The icing was put on the cake with a lovely approach to the 18th and a breaking left-to-right putt from 10 feet. Job done for the day. Just three more days to go!

Maguire – twice a runner-up on the LPGA Tour so far this season, in the Lotte Championship and also in the LPGA Meijer Classic – had worked on her game for the past fortnight in getting ready for the tour’s final run:

“I suppose over the last two weeks I’ve worked on my irons a lot. I was kind of overdrawing it a little bit the last few weeks and in Korea. Yeah, just getting that neutral ball flight back in. I play my best when I have little or no shape on my ball, so getting back to that. That’s been good here. Being able to hit it in those right sections of the greens, and even when I slightly missed the green it was still a pretty simple two-putt.”

On the European Tour, Denmark’s JB Hansen carded a nine-under-par 63 to lead by two strokes from a quartet of pursuers after the opening round of the Aviv Dubai Championship on the Fire Course at the Jumeirah Golf Resort in Dubai where Pádraig Harrington made a solid start, with a 68, in his quest to make next week’s Tour Championship.

With Sergio Garcia and Patrick Reed removed from the Race to Dubai rankings after failing to play a sufficient number of tournaments this season, Harrington now needs a top-10 finish in the tournament to move into the top-50 available players off the standings who qualify for the big-money Tour Championship.

Harrington – who started the week in 58th on the R2D list – included a hat-trick of birdies from the 14th to the 16th on his front nine to turn in 32 but had a sequence of nine straight pars to finish. “A tale of two halves,” conceded Harrington who finished the day in tied-26th and admitted he had “more to do” over the next three days to achieve his objective.

First round scores in the LPGA Pelican Women’s Championship (USA unless stated, Par 70):

62 Leona Maguire (Irl)

64 Sei-Young Kim (Kor)

65 Nelly Korda, Alexis Thompson, Danielle Kang, Nasa Hataoka (Jpn), Jennifer Kupcho, Christina Kim, Lauren Coughlin

66 Yu Liu (Chn), Gaby Lopez (Mex), Wei Ling Hsu (Tai), Esther Henseleit (Ger)

67 Brooke Henderson (Can), Brittany Altomare, Jessica Korda, Lydia Ko (Nzl), Pornanong Phatlum (Tha), Matilda Castren (Fin), Ssu-Chia Cheng (Tai), Aditi Ashok (Ind), Maria Fassi (Mex)

68 Jin-Young Ko (Kor), Jeon-Geun Lee (Kor), Brittany Lincicome, Moriya Jutanugarn (Tha), Celine Boutier (Fra), Su-Hyun Oh (Aus), Ally Ewing, Marina Alex, Annie Park, Caroline Inglis, Paphangkorn Tavatanakit (Tha), A-Lim Kim (Kor), Yuka Saso (Phi), Lauren Stephenson, Pavarisa Yoktuan (Tha)

69 Ariya Jutanugarn (Tha), Lizette Salas, Caroline Masson (Ger), Mi-Hyang Lee (Kor), Nicole Broch Estrup (Den), Jaye Marie Green, Amy Olson, Madelene Sagstroem (Swe), Ryann O’Toole, Wichanee Meechai (Tha), Albane Valenzuela (Swi), Jillian Hollis, Marissa Steen

70 Megan Khang, Alena Sharp (Can), Katherine Kirk (Aus), Cheyenne Knight, Xiyu Lin (Chn), Austin Ernst, Angela Stanford, Emma Talley, Giulia Molinaro (Ita), Perrine Delacour (Fra), Jennifer Song, Tiffany Chan (Hkg), Stephanie Meadow (NIrl), Isabell Gabsa (Ger)

71 Amy Yang (Kor), Eun-Hee Ji (Kor), Angel Yin, Kristen Gillman, Ashleigh Buhai (Rsa), Stacy Lewis, Pajaree Anannarukarn (Tha), Sophia Popov (Ger), Yealimi Noh, Mina Harigae, Sarah Kemp (Aus), Paula Reto (Rsa)

72 Thidapa Suwannapura (Tha), Jodi Ewart (Eng), Sarah Schmelzel, Maria Torres (Pur), Cristie Kerr, Pernilla Lindberg (Swe), Ana Belac (Slo), Linnea Stroem (Swe), Lindy Duncan

73 Som-Yeon Ryu (Kor), Nanna Koerstz Madsen (Den), Sarah Jane Smith (Aus), Cydney Clanton, Elizabeth Szokol, Esther Lee, Daniela Darquea (Ecu)

74 Azahara Munoz (Spa), Mi-Rim Lee (Kor), Ind-Gee Chun (Kor), Jennifer Coleman, Maria Uribe (Col)

75 Melissa Reid (Eng), Tiffany Joh, Anne van Dam (Ned)

76 Jing Yan (Chn), Chella Choi (Kor), Hae-Ji Kang (Kor), Maisie Filler

77 Destiny Lawson, Benyapa Niphatsophon (Tha)

78 Gerina Piller

First round scores & totals in the European Tour Aviv Dubai Championship (Gbr & Irl unless stated, Par 72):

63 Joachim B. Hansen (Den)

65 Dean Burmester (Rsa), Paul Waring, Antoine Rozner (Fra), Andy Sullivan

66 Tommy Fleetwood, Callum Shinkwin, Zander Lombard (Rsa), Francesco Laporta (Ita), Darren Fichardt (Rsa)

67 Niklas Lemke (Swe), Min-Woo Lee (Aus), Bernd Wiesberger (Aut), Thorbjoern Olesen (Den), Kristoffer Broberg (Swe), Sam Horsfield, Benjamin Hebert (Fra), Michael Lorenzo-Vera (Fra), Jason Scrivener (Aus), Thomas Detry (Bel), Kalle Samooja (Fin), Alvaro Quiros (Spa), Sean Crocker (USA), Julien Guerrier (Fra), David Coupland

68 Paul Casey, Mikko Korhonen (Fin), Scott Hend (Aus), Marcus Armitage, Robert MacIntyre, Ross McGowan, Guido Migliozzi (Ita), Pádraig Harrington, Ahmed Skaik (UAE), Ashley Chesters, Maximilian Kieffer (Ger), James Morrison

69 Martin Kaymer (Ger), Sebastian Soederberg (Swe), Tom Lewis, Alexander Bjoerk (Swe), Alexander Levy (Fra), Grant Forrest, Daniel Gavins, Ignacio Elvira (Spa), John Catlin (USA), Daniel van Tonder (Rsa), Romain Langasque (Fra), Jordan Smith, Masahiro Kawamura (Jpn), Scott Jamieson, Fabrizio Zanotti (Pry), Edoardo Molinari (Ita), Matthieu Pavon (Fra), Haydn Porteous (Rsa), Robin Roussel (Fra), Matthew Jordan, Ricardo Santos (Por), Oliver Farr, Alejandro Canizares (Spa)

70 Rafael Cabrera (Spa), Nicolas Colsaerts (Bel), Victor Perez (Fra), Stephen Gallacher, Justin Harding (Rsa), Lucas Bjerregaard (Den), Joost Luiten (Ned), Shubhankar Sharma (Ind), David Law, Joakim Lagergren (Swe), Jazz Janewattananond (Tha), Tapio Pulkkanen (Fin), Jack Senior, Sebastian Garcia (Spa), Robin Sciot-Siegrist (Fra)

71 Chris Wood, Jorge Campillo (Spa), Sami Valimaki (Fin), Jonathan Caldwell, Richie Ramsay, Oliver Wilson, Nino Bertasio (Ita), David Drysdale, David Horsey, Joel Stalter (Fra)

72 Steven Brown, Marcus Kinhult (Swe), Matt Wallace, Jeff Winther (Den), Thomas Bjorn (Den), Gavin Green (Mal), Justin Walters (Rsa), Oliver Fisher, David Howell, Adrian Meronk (Pol), Dale Whitnell, Pedro Figueiredo (Por), Carlos Pigem (Spa)

73 Eddie Pepperell, Julian Suri (USA), Ross Fisher, Marc Warren, Garrick Porteous

74 Johannes Veerman (USA), Rikard Karlberg (Swe)

75 Adrian Otaegui (Spa), Connor Syme, Lars van Meijel (Ned), Benjamin Poke (Den)

76 Richard McEvoy, Aaron Cockerill (Can), Clement Sordet (Fra)

77 Chris Paisley

79 Renato Paratore (Ita)

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times