Leona Maguire leads Women’s PGA with Stephanie Meadow only two back as they bid to make history

‘I can’t think of anything much better for Irish women’s golf’

Leona Maguire said patience has been key to her approach this week at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship as she looks to make her Major Championship breakthrough. That wait could end on Sunday, thanks to Maguire’s latest stellar trip around Baltusrol Golf Club.

Maguire two-putted for birdie at the final hole to take sole possession of the 54-hole lead at the second Major of the women’s golf season on Saturday.

She entered the third round with a one-shot lead and posted a two-under-par 69 to get to seven under. That broke a tie with South Korea’s Jenny Shin, who made five birdies to charge up the leaderboard and reach six under late in the day.

Shin matched the low round of the week with her bogey-free 66. Her lone win on the LPGA Tour came back in 2016, and she’s had just two top-10 finishes at Majors.


Maguire, conversely, earned her second LPGA victory last week at the Meijer LPGA Classic. Once the number amateur in the sport, the 28-year-old from Cavan is ranked 12th in the world and this week marks the first time she’s led a Major championship.

“I feel like I handled it pretty well and tried not to treat it any differently than any other round, just like last week,” Maguire said. “I think same mindset [Sunday].”

Maguire is the only player in the field to shoot all three rounds in the 60s. She’s hit 38 of 42 fairways and 48 of 54 greens in regulation.

“One more day of patience,” Maguire said. “I know it’s a cliche, but I think this golf course really demands it.”

Maguire’s good friend Stephanie Meadow will complete Sunday’s final group, which tees off at 3.38pm Irish time. The Northern Ireland golfer shot a 67 on Saturday to move into third at five under, leading the field in total putts, needing just 26 over 18 holes.

The two golfers have played with and against each other for most of their lives and both touched on their relationship after the third round.

“I’ll put it this way,” Meadow said with a laugh. “I knew her when she was reading Harry Potter books, so that was a long time ago.”

Maguire and Meadow competed against one another in junior golf and played on the same Curtis Cup team in 2012. They’ve roomed together and Maguire attended Meadow’s wedding earlier this year.

“I can’t think of anything much better for Irish women’s golf, which is incredible,” Meadow said.

“We’ve been good friends a long time,” Maguire said of Meadow. “We’ve done battle many times before. It’s great to see her playing so well.”

Maguire was steering clear of any talk of what a Major breakthrough would mean for her career.

“There’s a lot of business to take care of between now and then, so not getting too far ahead of ourselves,” she said, before adding that “Irish fans are the best fans in the world.”

Meadow echoed Maguire, saying: “I always feel the support from home. I know they’re rooting for both of us, and I hope that we can inspire some young girls in the process.”

After two days of wet, chilly weather, the storms forecast for North Jersey stayed away and the greens stayed soft. Shin felt she could attack the pins more and made three of her five birdies on the front nine.

Maguire birdied the par-four first and par-five seventh holes to touch seven under before her short par putt at the par-four 11th grazed the right edge of the cup.

Shin tied Maguire at six under with her final birdie of the day at the par-three 16th, where her tee shot threatened the pin before rolling to about 10 feet. Maguire moved back in front with a 10-foot breaking putt for birdie at the 15th, but she couldn’t get up and down for par at the par-five 17th and dropped back to six under.

The 17th and 18th holes at Baltusrol are both playing as par-fives this week, which could bring an extra wrinkle of strategy into play Sunday. The 17th is a three-shot hole, but many players are reaching the 18th green in two.

“Great risk-reward,” Meadow said of the set-up. “Anything can happen coming in there, especially on 18.”

World number one Jin Young Ko of South Korea made her move with a run of four birdies from the 12th. She shot a 69 and is tied for sixth at three under with Lauren Coughlin (68). Megan Khang (67), Mina Harigae (70), Japan’s Yuka Saso (69) and Xiyu Lin of China (73) all sit in eighth at two under.

Of the top 11 players through three rounds, only two have won a Major title before – Ko and Saso.

Rose Zhang, the 20-year-old prodigy who won her first professional start earlier this month, gave herself a three-foot eagle at the 18th by hitting a five-wood to reach the green in two. She shot her best round of the week, a 68, and is tied for 12th at one under.