Leona Maguire cards bogey-free 67 in first round of penultimate event of the LPGA Tour season

Stephanie Meadow signs for level par 70; Tom McKibbin tied for 20th at two-under at Nedbank Championship

Any round when you avoid a bogey is a good one, and Leona Maguire – in the penultimate event of the LPGA Tour season – was steadiness personified in a bogey-free opening round of three-under-par 67 in The Annika by Gainbridge at Pelican in Bellaire, Florida.

Maguire has carefully selected her late season schedule since playing a big part in Europe’s Solheim Cup success in Spain in September, opting to play only one of the LPGA Tour’s four-week Asian Swing, and the world number 19 came into The Annika – hosted by Swedish legend Annika Sorenstam – fresh, mentally and physically.

As Jin Young Ko and Patty Tavatanakit signed for openings 63s to share the clubhouse lead, Maguire went about her business with great efficiency in the final regular tournament of the schedule ahead of next week’s big money, limited field CME Group Tour Championship.

That event is confined only to the leading 60 players on the order of merit and Maguire, currently 18th, is guaranteed her place while obviously aiming to improve on her standings with a strong showing in Bellaire.


Maguire, who started on the 10th on Thursday, claimed birdies at the 16th, first and sixth holes to sign for a 67 – alongside two-time defending champion Nellie Korda – to be well placed heading into the remaining three rounds of the $3.25 million tournament.

Stephanie Meadow – who needs a good week if she is to force her way into the field for next week’s Tour Championship – started strongly, getting to two-under on her round through the turn but she bogeyed the fifth and, after getting that shot back with a birdie on the eighth, suffered a double-bogey five on her finishing hole, the ninth, to sign for a level par 70.

Meadow headed into the tournament at 69th in the order of merit.

Two members of Europe’s Solheim Cup team made strong starts, with England’s Georgia Hall and Swedne’s Linn Grant continuing their good recent form with matching 65s.

For Grant, playing and competing in a tournament bearing Sorenstam’s name provided some extra incentive: “Even though it’s not a personal thing, I feel like somehow she’s been following all us Swedes since we were young. It’s kind of cool for her to have a pro event now in her name...I feel like I really found something out there, gave myself a lot of opportunities. I think the greens are really tricky, you need to putt really well to get birdies going.”

Meanwhile, American Max Homa’s Afircan safari has taken him to wildlife parks and also to a share of the first round lead in the Nedbank Championship at Sun City.

Homa, the world number eight, has used the PGA Tour’s truncated playing schedule to broaden his horizons and signed for an opening round six-under-par 66 on his debut in the Nedbank to join England’s Dan Bradbury, Denmark’s Nicolai Hojgaard and Sweden’s Vincent Norrman – the current Horizon Irish Open champion – in a tie for the lead.

In truth, Homa was as surprised as anyone by his strong start:

“That was mildly shocking. I would’ve assumed I’d shoot six-over before six-under so it was a treat. I don’t feel like I’m swinging it amazing but my short irons are very good, I felt like I putted really awesome and I tried to take advantage of that,” said Homa, adding: ”I was obviously pretty rusty so, at the start of the round, the goal was just to give myself some putts and ease my way into it. On the back nine I started to find a little something with my driver so that was nice. I was able to be a bit more aggressive, going for the par five in two on 14, that was an advantage. I started to swing it a bit better as the day went on but I just tried to think my way around the golf course.”

Tom McKibbin – who secured his breakthrough win on the DP World Tour with success in the Porsche European Open earlier this season – maintained his decent run of form with an opening round 70 in tied-20th.

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times