Leona Maguire is the name on everybody's lips after her impressive second place at last weekend's LPGA Classic - and, as she approaches the third major of the year in an Olympic summer, she's growing in confidence.
The Cavan woman has been playing on the professional tour for three years now, and the LPGA result was her best finish yet in that time.
Leona Maguire looking to continue good form
Maguire spoke early this week at a media event to launch the KPMG Performance Series. With the Women's PGA Championship coming this weekend, she feels she's hitting a good run of form at the right time.
It’s a case of trying to put myself into a position every week. You don’t really know how you’re going to react until you’re in those positions, last week was the first time I think I’d ever played in the last group at a PGA event so I felt like I handled it really well. I learned a lot from San Francisco and what I could have done better.
I’ll take all of that momentum and experience into this week and…it’s a very different golf course this week, I mean it probably will favour the longer hitters so I’ll probably have to try and rely on the wedges on the par fives a bit more and literally squeeze every last bit out I can.
Maguire has spent the last year focusing on getting comfortable with her swing, and has enlisted the help of veteran caddie Dermot Byrne. She says that initial contact was made first while she was still on tour in Las Vegas, but that Byrne has welcomed the challenge of taking to the LPGA Tour for the first time.
Byrne, who has previously caddied for Mark Power and Shane Lowry, has taken to the role instantly, and Maguire says that the similar way the two of them see shots has been a positive influence on her game.
Dermot’s had a lot of experience. He’s been in a lot of big situations and big events and I think we see shots very similarly. He very quickly got to know my clubs and how I like to play and that, so that definitely helps.
We’ve similar enough personalities, that way we’re both reserved enough and get along pretty well together. So yeah, so far so good, I suppose it’s been nice to have an Irish caddy in the bag as well!
— KPMG Golf (@KPMGGolf) June 22, 2021
This weekend sees Maguire and the LPGA Tour take on the third major of five in 2021, as the Atlanta Athletic Club plays host to the Women's PGA Championship. After her impressive showing at last weekend's PGA Classic, Maguire is expecting a slightly tougher weekend at the PGA, with rain forecast throughout - but she is doing all she can to ensure she's best prepared.
I mean there’s been a lot of rain, so it’s incredibly wet. It’s playing really, really long, there’s absolutely no run on the ball. The nine-wood is gonna be getting a lot of use this week I’m gonna predict, it has been the last few days it’s a lot of six-irons, nine-woods, hybrids, that sort of thing into the greens.
I’d imagine the greens…they’re gonna try and get a little bit firmer and faster, weather permitting. So, it’s really gonna be about really good ball-striking this week and taking your chances where you get them, because there probably won’t be a huge amount of them. It’s gonna take four really good rounds of really solid golf this week.
For Maguire, the summer ahead will also bring a second trip to the Olympic Games - a year later than planned in Tokyo.
— Leona Maguire (@leona_maguire) June 20, 2021
Though the Tokyo games will look very different to Maguire's last experience of the Olympics in Rio, she can't wait to go for gold again - and to cheer on her Irish teammates, if regrettably from afar.
I can’t really speak for anyone else, I think it depends maybe on how you grow up and if you play other sports, or grew up watching the Olympics. It’s the pinnacle of sport, really, so I’m always gonna value an Olympic gold medal, I think.
We got an email there the other day from the LPGA saying that we weren’t going to be allowed to go to any other events, which is a shame. Part of what I enjoyed in Rio was getting to go and watch the other athletes as well, there was a great sense of camaraderie between the Irish team in Rio.
I’ve gotten to know a few of the athletes over the last few years so I’ll still be cheering them on and that even though we won’t be allowed into the venues.
The final item on the agenda for Maguire this summer could be the Solheim Cup in early September. Though she knows she would be an outsider's pick at this stage, she's determined to do all she can to put herself in contention for selection.
Solheim is always something you dream of playing in and I suppose it’s one of those things that I was a long way off, probably, at the start of the year and the goal is to play Solheim some day, whether that’s this year or two years’ time, whatever it is. All I can really do is play as well as I possibly can in the next few weeks and months and we’ll see how things work out come August.
It's an exciting summer of golf ahead for Leona Maguire, who's hitting form at just the right time. Fingers will be crossed across Ireland that the Women's PGA this weekend brings a continuation of that form that will extend as far as Tokyo and beyond.