Leona Maguire battles hard but Nelly Korda does enough for victory in Michigan

Irish golfer moves up to 13th on the LPGA Tour order of merit after closing 66

Ireland’s  Leona Maguire drives  on the ninth hole during the final round of the Meijer LPGA Classic at the Blythefield Country Club in Belmont, Michigan. Photograph: Tannen Maury/EPA

Ireland’s Leona Maguire drives on the ninth hole during the final round of the Meijer LPGA Classic at the Blythefield Country Club in Belmont, Michigan. Photograph: Tannen Maury/EPA

 

Leona Maguire hardly put a foot wrong in her quest to win the LPGA Meijer Classic in Grand Rapids, Michigan: in constructing a bogey-free closing round 66 for a total of 23-under-par 265, the 26-year-old Co Cavan played beautifully from tee-to-green and used her putter more often than not like a magic wand.

Ultimately, though, it wasn’t enough to capture a breakthrough tour win. Instead, Maguire – in a rich vein of form – had to settle for solo runner-up to world number four Nelly Korda, who lived on the edge before eventually sealing the deal with a closing birdie as her 67 for 263. It gave Korda fifth career win and second of the season.

Maguire – very much in the frame to make a Solheim Cup debut for Europe against the United States later this year – had the consolation of a runners-up payday of $214,010 (€180,464) which moved her from 20th to 13th on the updated LPGA Tour order of merit. She will aim to maintain her momentum (tied-ninth and second in successive weeks) into the upcoming LPGA Championship, the third Major of the women’s season.

Having started the day three shots adrift of Korda, Maguire made immediate inroads with three birdies in the opening four holes and moved into a share of the lead with a birdie on the eighth. A back-to-back brace of birdies for Korda on the 10th and 11th enabled her to regain the initiative but Maguire stuck stubbornly to the task at hand and birdies on the 14th and 16th meant she trailed by just one stroke down the stretch.

Maguire made a brilliant par on the 17th after driving into trees and then hit a fine approach to 25 feet to set up an eagle putt on the last, where Korda showed her own fighting qualities with a great up and down from greenside rough for a birdie. Maguire needed to hole the eagle putt and gave it a go, but it went three feet by and, with the deal done, then missed the return for birdie.

“I’m really proud of how I played all week,” said Maguire. “I hit some great golf shots with I need to do. I’m really proud of how I fought this week, and same in San Francisco last week. I just didn’t give myself quite enough in the end.

“Nelly is one of the best players in the world and I went toe-to-toe with her pretty much all of today. I knew it was going to be a battle. I knew I had a lot of golf in front of me and she had a three-shot head-start. This week is going to be huge heading into a Major. I knew I was playing some great golf. It’s a huge confidence boost for the rest of the season.”

Technically still a rookie on the LPGA Tour after the category was voided due to Covid last year, Maguire admitted: “I’m really starting to feel like I belong out here. Even though it’s still my rookie year, I’m feeling more and more comfortable every week. It was my first time in the last group going into the final round, and really proud of how I managed that. You just never know how you’re going to react until you’re in that situation.”

Korda remarked: “Leona’s a really good player. She kept me on my toes all day. I had to play good golf. There were a lot of birdie opportunities out here. I started off a little rough not hitting many fairways, but kept telling myself to battle through it.”

Final scores

(USA unless stated, Par 72):

263 Nelly Korda 68 66 62 67

265 Leona Maguire (Irl) 65 64 70 66

267 Brittany Altomare 68 66 69 64, Ind-Gee Chun (Kor) 68 67 69 63

268 Anna Nordqvist (Swe) 67 67 68 66

270 Lizette Salas 68 66 70 66, Ally Ewing 68 69 68 65, Georgia Hall (Eng) 68 69 65 68, Lauren Stephenson 65 72 67 66

271 Ariya Jutanugarn (Tha) 66 73 68 64, Moriya Jutanugarn (Tha) 68 67 69 67, Ind-Bee Park (Kor) 68 68 68 67, Jennifer Kupcho 68 68 67 68, Mina Harigae 68 66 68 69

272 Charley Hull (Eng) 65 70 67 70, Su-Hyun Oh (Aus) 67 65 69 71, Xiyu Lin (Chn) 67 72 68 65, Jennifer Coleman 71 69 67 65, Perrine Delacour (Fra) 71 64 70 67

273 Alexis Thompson 68 68 68 69, Amy Olson 67 70 69 67, Sarah Schmelzel 67 69 67 70, Austin Ernst 69 68 68 68, Muni He (Chn) 70 71 65 67

274 Jessica Korda 68 69 67 70, Marina Alex 67 68 70 69, Gaby Lopez (Mex) 68 70 69 67, Gerina Piller 70 71 65 68

275 Carlota Ciganda (Esp) 69 70 68 68, Nasa Hataoka (Jpn) 65 72 71 67, Megan Khang 68 71 68 68, Chella Choi (Kor) 67 68 69 71, Katherine Kirk (Aus) 70 67 70 68, Stacy Lewis 71 69 67 68, Pajaree Anannarukarn (Tha) 67 69 74 65, Madelene Sagstroem (Swe) 68 67 65 75, Ssu-Chia Cheng (Tai) 70 67 68 70, Lindy Duncan 68 65 71 71, Alison Lee 67 74 65 69, Min Lee (Tai) 66 71 69 69

276 Cristie Kerr 69 70 71 66, Christina Kim 68 70 71 67, Elizabeth Szokol 71 65 69 71, Ji-Won Jeon (Kor) 71 70 68 67

277 Gabriela Ruffels (Aus) 67 72 69 69, Hannah Green (Aus) 70 66 71 70, Ashleigh Buhai (Rsa) 69 68 69 71, Cheyenne Knight 71 68 67 71, Sophia Popov (Ger) 67 73 66 71, Giulia Molinaro (Ita) 68 68 69 72, Dana Finkelstein 69 70 71 67, Ruixin Liu (Chn) 71 68 69 69, Janie Jackson 70 66 73 68

278 A-Lim Kim (Kor) 72 69 69 68, Albane Valenzuela (Swi) 70 70 70 68, Jeong-Eun Lee (Kor) 69 71 67 71

279 Jin-Young Ko (Kor) 69 69 74 67, Azahara Munoz (Esp) 72 68 70 69, Esther Henseleit (Ger) 68 72 67 72, Sarah Burnham 68 71 72 68

280 Caroline Masson (Ger) 69 70 71 70, Mo Martin 73 68 69 70, Lydia Ko (Nzl) 71 69 71 69, In-Kyung Kim (Kor) 71 70 70 69, Esther Lee 69 70 71 70

281 Juli Inkster 71 68 70 72, Hae-Ji Kang (Kor) 73 66 73 69

282 Cydney Clanton 70 71 71 70

283 Jennifer Song 71 70 70 72

284 Valery Plata (Col) 72 68 73 71, Angel Yin 72 68 67 77

286 Jeon-Geun Lee (Kor) 73 66 77 70

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