Leona Maguire looking to end her season in style

26-year-old brings an end to a long campaign in the Group Tour Championship in Florida

A win may, so far, have evaded Leona Maguire's clutches on her global travels in 2021 but, as she heads into her final tournament of a long season – the CME Group Tour Championship on the LPGA Tour in Naples, Florida - the Co Cavan player has one last shot at changing that particular statistic.

Having started the year ranked 177th in the Rolex world rankings, Maguire has been on an upwards trajectory – now up to 45th – during a season in which the 26-year-old has claimed five top-10s, including two runner-up finishes, in her 21 tournaments (not counting the Solheim Cup where she was the star of the show!).

That this 22nd tournament of her individual campaign is the season-ending Tour Championship - limited to the leading 60 players on the order of merit, with a payday of over €1 million to the winner - provides confirmation that Maguire’s season has been a rewarding one as she chases that first LPGA Tour win.

To claim it at Tiburón Golf Club, Maguire will have to beat a world quality field in which Nelly Korda and Jin Young Ko, one and two respectively in the world rankings, are also fighting it out for the player of the year accolade. "The fact I'm in contention just shows how well I've played this year and shows how much my hard work has been paying off," said Korda.


Maguire was actually runner-up to Korda at the Meijer Classic back in June which effectively kick-started her hot streak, as she went on to successfully claim a breakthrough Major at the KPMG Women's PGA Championship in her next outing.

Korda is again seeking to win in back-to-back weeks in Naples, having won last week's Pelican Championship (emerging the victor from a four-player play-off): "It's really hard to win back-to-back beause you're definitely a little mentally and physically drained from the week before. So, I'm making sure that I'm well rested and that I'm 100 percent going into (the tournament) and that I'll be 100 percent going into Sunday as well, that's probably going to be my main focus this week," she said.

For Jin Young Ko, who gained player of the year honours in 2019, this season has also been hugely rewarding with four wins on the LPGA Tour so far: “My swing, my game, is almost perfect . . . if I make more putts I can win again. I will try to make a lot of putts this week.”

The third member of the marquee group will be Lydia Ko, who believes the dominance this season of Korda and Young Ko has elevated the women's game: "It's super cool, and I think it's great for women's golf in general. Great for our tour. They have two very different games. Even though their strengths might be similar their games are very different. I think it just shows so much talent out here, that it doesn't take one type of player to be so dominant. It can be very different."


Purse: €4.3 million (€1million to the winner)

Where: Naples, Florida

The course: Tiburón Golf Club (6,556 yards par 72) is a Greg Norman design (tiburón is the Spanish for shark)  . . . it has played host to the season-ending Tour Championship since 2013. The course is a certified nature sanctuary. The bunkers are filled with coquina shell waste and also feature sod walls. Jin Young Ko birdied the final hole last year to claim the title.

The field:  A star-studded Who's Who of the women's game, with Nelly Korda and Jin Young Ko set to continue their yo-yoing of holding the world number one spot in what has turned into a great modern rivalry.

Quote-Unquote: "I can't believe this one is the last tournament of the year, but I'm ready to play" – Jin Young Ko, looking to cap off the season with a fifth tournament win.

Irish in the field: Leona Maguire is in a group with Celine Boutier and Lizette Salas (off the first tee, at 1.15pm Irish time).

Betting: No surprise that Jin Young Ko (9-2) and Nelly Korda (11-2) – who have dominated the season, each with four wins – are the market leaders . . . Leona Maguire is a 45-1 shot and another decent each-way look is Hannah Green at 60-1.

On TV: Live on Sky Sports (live coverage from 8pm).

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times