Leona Maguire storms to top of California leaderboard after stunning 65

26-year-old makes nine birdies as she takes one stroke lead in Mediheal Championship

Leona Maguire raced into a four stroke lead on the opening day in California. Photograph: Jed Jacobsohn/Getty

Leona Maguire raced into a four stroke lead on the opening day in California. Photograph: Jed Jacobsohn/Getty

 

Leona Maguire teed off in the first round of the LPGA Mediheal Championship at Lake Merced in Daly City, California, in the company of multiple tour winners and Major champions Sei Young Kim and Lydia Ko and promptly proceeded to showcase her own star appeal with a brilliant opening round of seven-under-par 65 to claim the first round lead.

The 26-year-old Co Cavan golfer - technically still in her ‘rookie’ season on the LPGA Tour stateside - seemed, for the most part, to be playing a different course to everyone else as she put on an exhibition that produced nine birdies and two bogeys, one of which came at her closing hole, to propel herself to the top of the leaderboard.

“I’m getting sort of more comfortable every week, and it was quite a nice feeling today to play with Sei Young and Lydia today. Obviously I’ve watched them on TV for quite a while over the years. To find myself in a pairing like that and play well is nice,” said Maguire.

Having failed to earn an exemption into last week’s US Women’s Open, Maguire - perhaps with a point to prove - was on fire on returning to competition with six birdies on her outward run (having started on the 10th) to turn in 31 strokes and she added further birdies at the first, fifth and eighth before dropping a shot on the difficult, long Par 5 ninth.

In a year which has seen her move from 177th in the world at the start of the year up to her current position of 93rd, and with two top-10s including a runner-up finish at the Lotte Championship so far this season, Maguire’s quest for a breakthrough LPGA Tour win gained momentum in the San Francisco Bay area, not far from where she secured her maiden win in the Windsor Classic on the Symetra Tour in 2019 which set her on course to full LPGA Tour membership.

“It’s a tough golf course. You really have to hit a lot of fairways, a lot of greens. I’ve been playing nice as of late. Things just haven’t been quite clicking, and they clicked nicely this morning. I suppose first arriving here it felt like home. It’s a lot of the same style of golf course, same weather as home. I got a nice feeling straight away when we arrived on Monday,” said Maguire.

Maguire’s superb round gave her a one stroke lead over Jasmine Suwannapura of Thailand . It proved to be a far tougher time for Stephanie Meadow - set to represent Ireland alongside Maguire in the Tokyo Olympics - who struggled to an opening round of 80. Ko, meanwhile, shot a 72 while Kim, winner of the tournament in 2019, signed for a 73.

Leona Maguire is congratulated by Sei Young Kim after her opening round in California. Photograph: Jed Jacobsohn/Getty
Leona Maguire is congratulated by Sei Young Kim after her opening round in California. Photograph: Jed Jacobsohn/Getty

In the Palmetto Championship at Congaree in South Carolina on the PGA Tour, world number one Dustin Johnson - playing for the first time since missing the cut in the US PGA Championship last month - put together a lovely round of six-under-par 65 to leave him one shot off Wes Roach’s first round lead.

Séamus Power, finally getting to use the exemption he earned from a top-10 finish in the Byron Nelson, opened with a 71 - five birdies and four bogeys - to be well positioned to survive the midway cut.

The Palmetto is a once-off stand-in tournament replacing the Canadian Open which was unable to take place due to logistical and organisational problems due to the pandemic and Johnson was very comfortable in his home state in getting back to form.

“I feel like I’ve been playing well, just haven’t been scoring very good. The putting’s been off or it’s just like small little mistakes that you shouldn’t make, so, yeah, sometimes it’s taken a little bit of time away and kind of clearing my head and definitely it helps and putting in a lot of good work last week. I feel like I’m swinging good, so if I can keep the putter rolling it’s going to be a fun week,” said Johnson, aiming to get back to winning ways ahead of next week’s US Open at Torrey Pines.

Austria’s Christine Wolf and England’s Sam Horsfield shot eight-under-par 64s to share the lead after the opening round of the Scandinavian Mixed at Vallda Gof Club in Gothenburg, Sweden, a co-sanctioned tournament on the European and LET circuits with an equal number of men and women in the field.

With her mother Andrea acting as caddie, Wolf produced a flawless round of six birdies and an eagle in putting on an exhibition with her putter.

Jonathan Caldwell, the only Irish player in the field, opened with a two-under-par 70 to lie in tied-56th.

Collated first round scores (USA unless stated, Par 72)

65 Leona Maguire (Irl)

66 Thidapa Suwannapura (Tha)

68 Albane Valenzuela (Swi), Alison Lee

69 Da-Yeon Lee (Kor), Ind-Bee Park (Kor), Jennifer Kupcho, Jane Park, Mariajo Uribe (Col), Lauren Kim

70 Paphangkorn Tavatanakit (Tha), Lauren Stephenson, Min Lee (Tai)

71 Lucy Lie, Alexis Thompson, Danielle Kang, Hyo-Joo Kim (Kor), Amy Yang (Kor), Su-Hyun Oh (Aus), Jing Yan (Chn), Ashleigh Buhai (Rsa), Jennifer Coleman, Jeong-Eun Lee (Kor), Linnea Stroem (Swe), Matilda Castren (Fin), Klara Spilkova (Cze), Min-Seo Kwak (Kor), Bianca Pagdanganan (Phi), Emma Talley, Jaclyn Lee (Can)

72 Hannah Green (Aus), Yu Liu (Chn), Celine Boutier (Fra), Angel Yin, Jenny Shin (Kor), Nicole Broch Larsen (Den), Lydia Ko (Nzl), Annie Park, Pornanong Phatlum (Tha), A-Lim Kim (Kor), Wichanee Meechai (Tha), Jillian Hollis, Anne van Dam (Ned), Lindy Duncan, Dana Finkelstein, Ana Belac (Slo), Yealimi Noh, Lauren Coughlin, Kyung Kim, Kendall Dye

73 Sei-Young Kim (Kor), Min-Jee Lee (Aus), Shanshan Feng (Chn), Charley Hull (Eng), Som-Yeon Ryu (Kor), Mi-Rim Lee (Kor), Sarah Jane Smith (Aus), Xiyu Lin (Chn), Ryann O’Toole, Caroline Inglis, Pernilla Lindberg (Swe), Michelle Wie, Hae-Ji Kang (Kor), Mina Harigae, Lindsey Weaver, Gemma Dryburgh (Sco), Linnea Johansson (Swe)

74 Bronte Law (Eng), Mi-Hyang Lee (Kor), Nanna Koerstz Madsen (Den), Wei Ling Hsu (Tai), Jodi Ewart (Eng), Sarah Schmelzel, Christina Kim, Jennifer Song, Tiffany Chan (Hkg), Luna Sobron (Spa), Paula Reto (Rsa), Sarah Burnham, Haley Moore, Ji-Won Jeon (Kor), Elizabeth Nagel, Leslie Cloots (Bel)

75 Andrea Wong, Azahara Munoz (Spa), Alena Sharp (Can), Katherine Kirk (Aus), Cydney Clanton, Ayako Uehara (Jpn), Perrine Delacour (Fra), Paula Creamer, Mariah Stackhouse, Kristy McPherson, Kelly Tan (Mal), Jacqui Concolino, Kathleen Scavo

76 Rachel Heck, Brittany Lincicome, Gerina Piller, Maria Torres (Pur), Hee-Young Park (Kor), Marissa Steen, Jennifer Chang, Esther Lee, Kanphanitnan Muangkhumsakul (Tha), Giulia Molinaro (Ita), Benyapa Niphatsophon (Tha), Nam-Yeon Choi (Kor), Muni He (Chn), Brianna Do, Lee Lopez, Janie Jackson

77 Juli Inkster, Brooke Henderson (Can), Mo Martin, Kristen Gillman, Jaye Marie Green, Georgia Hall (Eng), Cheyenne Knight, Yani Tseng (Tai), Julieta Granada (Pry), Esther Henseleit (Ger), Andrea Lee, Dottie Ardina (Phi), Louise Ridderstroem (Swe), Katelyn Dambaugh, Yu-Jeong Son (Kor)

78 Harukyo Nomura (Jpn), Cristie Kerr, Elizabeth Szokol, Ssu-Chia Cheng (Tai), Maia Schechter, Suzuka Yamaguchi (Jpn)

79 Pavarisa Yoktuan (Tha), Daniela Darquea (Ecu), Maria Fassi (Mex), Daniela Holmqvist (Swe), Anne-Catherine Tanguay (Can)

80 Stephanie Meadow (Irl), Vicky Hurst , Pannarat Thanapolboonyaras (Tha)

81 Tiffany Joh, Alana Uriell

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