Leona Maguire hits the ground running at LA Open

The Slieve Russell golfer again found herself very much at the business end of proceedings

Leona Maguire has again found herself very much at the business end of proceedings at the LA Open as she eyes a breakthrough win on the LPGA Tour. File photograph: Getty Images

Leona Maguire has again found herself very much at the business end of proceedings at the LA Open as she eyes a breakthrough win on the LPGA Tour. File photograph: Getty Images

 

Leona Maguire isn’t required to audition these days, rather her part is invariably one that has a starring role; and the 26-year-old Co Cavan golfer - just a matter of days after her career-best finish on the LPGA Tour - hit the ground running in the Hugel Air Premia LA Open at Wilshire Country Club, just south of Hollywood, with an opening round 69, two-under-par.

Jessica Korda birdied three of the final four holes for a seven under 64 and a one-stroke first round lead. Tiffany Chan and Moriya Jutanugarn are both a stroke back.

For Maguire, an eventful round - six birdies, a double-bogey and two bogeys - actually finished with a dropped shot on the ninth, her 18th, but the Slieve Russell golfer again found herself very much at the business end of proceedings as she eyes a breakthrough win on the LPGA Tour.

Maguire’s tied-second place finish in the Lotte Championship in Hawaii last weekend saw her move into the world’s top-100 for the first time - up to 93rd, and up to 10th on the season’s order of merit - and she picked up where she left off, recovering from a bogey on the Par 3 12th to reel off four birdies in a five hole stretch (claiming birdies on the 13th, 14th, 16th and 17th) to turn in three-under 33.

On her back nine, Maguire picked up another birdie on the third only to suffer a double-bogey on the Par 3 third and then bounced back with a birdie on the fourth. Her round finished with a bogey on the ninth, inside the top-20 as the first wave of players drew to a conclusion.

Maguire’s play tee-to-green was excellent, finding 12 of 14 fairways and hitting 16 of 18 greens-in-regulation in a round in which, however, she took 32 putts.

If Maguire’s round was something of a rollercoaster, so too was Jutanugarn’s as she covered the front nine in a remarkable 29 strokes - featuring six birdies and no dropped shots - only to hit speedbumps after the turn. The Thai golfer suffered a double-bogey on the 11th and then had back-to-back bogeys on the 13th and 14th only to regain her rhythm for a strong finish with four successive birdies to sign for a 65.

The Wilshire course - dating back to 1919 - has previously played host to the LA Open on the PGA Tour and has proven a popular tour stop on the LPGA Tour, with Morgan Pressel emphasising the challenge it presents to players: “You can hit it close and give yourself some birdie opportunities or you’re scrambling to make par, and the edge is very thin!”

Inbee Park, the world number two and winner of the Kia Classic last month, observed after an opening 68: “The greens are just really tricky. I mean, like some putts are really quick, some really slow. It’s very slopey, so just don’t know which way it’s going to break, how much it’s going to break. It’s very tough. I think nobody is going to really have a great putting week this week. I mean, it’s poana greens and it’s quite quick on the downhill putts, so I think we just got to watch out for the speed of the putts and try to hit it close as you can.”

LA Open - Wilshire CC, Los Angeles

First round (US unless stated, Irish in bold)

Par 71

64 Jessica Korda

65 Moriya Jutanugarn (Tha), Tiffany Chan (Hkg)

66 Austin Ernst, Carlota Ciganda (Spa), Dana Finkelstein, Nelly Korda, Su-Hyun Oh (Aus)

67 A-Lim Kim (Kor), Alison Lee, Ally Ewing, Jin-Young Ko (Kor), Muni He (Chn), Nanna Koerstz Madsen (Den), Sei-Young Kim (Kor), Sophia Popov (Ger)

68 Angela Stanford, Hae-Ji Kang (Kor), Hannah Green (Aus), In-Bee Park (Kor), Jennifer Kupcho, Jeon-Geun Lee (Kor), Jodi Ewart (Eng), Maria Fassi (Mex), Marina Alex, Morgan Pressel, Som-Yeon Ryu (Kor), Sung-Hyun Park (Kor), Xiyu Lin (Chn), Yealimi Noh

69 Azahara Munoz (Spa), Brooke Henderson (Can), Celine Boutier (Fra), Christina Kim, Esther Lee, Gaby Lopez (Mex), Leona Maguire (Irl), Lindsey Weaver, Pornanong Phatlum (Tha), Ryann O’Toole, Sarah Kemp (Aus), Shanshan Feng (Chn)

70 Aditi Ashok (Ind), Alexis Thompson, Angel Yin, Charley Hull (Eng), Gabriela Ruffels (Aus), Giulia Molinaro (Ita), In-Kyung Kim (Kor), Jane Park, Jennifer Chang, Melissa Reid (Eng), Michelle Wie, Min-Jee Lee (Aus), Sarah Burnham, Sarah Schmelzel

71 Amy Yang (Kor), Anna Nordqvist (Swe), Ariya Jutanugarn (Tha), Ashleigh Buhai (Rsa), Cristie Kerr, Daniela Holmqvist (Swe), Gerina Piller, Lauren Kim, Lauren Stephenson, Louise Ridderstroem (Swe), Marissa Steen, Megan Khang, Min-Seo Kwak (Kor), Nam-Yeon Choi (Kor), Pajaree Anannarukarn (Tha), Sarah Jane Smith (Aus), Wichanee Meechai (Tha)

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