Leona Maguire on her charge up the rankings, Women’s Open hopes and playing this week’s Aramco Team Series – London.
Leona Maguire has made a career out of firsts. As a 17-year-old, she became the first home winner of the Irish Girls Open Strokeplay Championships and since then has become the first Irishwoman to win on the LPGA Tour, make the cut in a major, play for Europe at the Solheim Cup and, most recently, reach the top 10 of the world rankings.
Now 28 and entering just her sixth year as a professional, she is only just getting started. This week she will seek her first Ladies European Tour win at the Aramco Team Series – London and holds strong claims of breaking her major duck before August is out. It would be no great surprise to see the former world amateur No1 occupy first place in the pro rankings before long.
“I think everybody that plays sports at an elite level always wants to be the best in the world,” says Maguire.
“I suppose for me it’s been quite a steady climb. Breaking into the top 10 in the world [last month], that’s been a goal for a long time. It’s a nice milestone to reach but we’re by no means done yet. But rankings are not something that I focus too much on. Ultimately, you’re just trying to play as well as you can every week and things like rankings look after themselves.
“It’s obviously a validation of a lot of hard work, and I know I’m playing really well, and I think ladies’ professional golf is arguably as competitive now as it’s ever been. So it’s a nice place to be, but you can’t rest on your laurels.”
Maguire is doing anything but resting. Her appearance at the Aramco Team Series – London is one of six tournaments she is playing over a period of eight weeks. That includes two majors, foremost of which is the Women’s Open next month at Walton Heath, where Maguire will be aiming to improve on her tie for fourth place last year.
“I’m going to play Walton Heath on Monday, so I’ll use that as a little bit of a warm-up. I have a busy summer in Europe coming up,” she says.
“I think that’s been the challenge this year; managing the schedule. We always know the summer’s going to be busy when it’s a Solheim Cup year. And the fact that our majors are very condensed into a few weeks, it seems like we waited a long time for the major season to kick off, but now it’s underway, it’s probably going to be over in a flash.
“The Evian [Championship, the next major] and British Open are nearly back to back so it is a quick turnaround. Very different golf courses. We know what we’re getting at least with Evian, we’ve been going back there for so long. It maybe requires a little less preparation than some of the rest.
“I’ve never played Walton Heath before, so it’ll be a very different test. I’m looking forward to it. It’ll be unusual not to play the British Open on a links golf course. Obviously we did a few years ago at Woburn.
“I feel like my game’s in really good shape. We’ve plenty of events between now and the British Open, so hopefully I can continue that momentum and get a bit more experience under my belt before I arrive in Walton Heath.”
Maguire relishing return to British Isles for Aramco Team Series
Maguire showed her major potential once again at the Women’s US PGA Championship last month. Just days after winning her second LPGA Tour title at the Meijer Classic, she led after 36 and 54 holes only to fall away in the final round. Last week’s 31st in the Women’s US Open at Pebble Beach did not alter the fact that Maguire is getting closer to landing a big one.
“I think I played some really good golf [at the Women’s US PGA] and obviously it’s one thing playing good golf in regular tournaments, but knowing that you can compete with the best golfers in the world and at a major, at a venue like Baltusrol, I take a lot of confidence from that,” she says.
“I think Baltusrol was one of the toughest tests we’ve had. It was a really, really good golf course and a really good test. So it’s nice to know that my game stacks up at a venue like that. It’s all about putting myself in positions to contend. That’s exactly where you want to be on Sunday at any tournament and the same at majors.”
Mitigating her punishing schedule over the next two months is the fact that Maguire will be playing closer to home – a treat for a player who went to the US to start college in 2014 and graduated onto the Symetra and LPGA Tours. Sandwiching the Women’s Open will be appearances at the Women’s Scottish Open and a homecoming at the Women’s Irish Open.
“It’ll be nice to spend a week there at home, sleep in my own bed, and get a few home-cooked meals for a change,” she says. “I always enjoy playing in Europe. I think there’s a familiarity there. I know all the girls and it’s an exciting summer of golf ahead.”
First, though, it’s a debut at Centurion Club, where she will face a stellar field featuring Solheim Cup team-mates Charley Hull and Georgia Hall as well as LPGA rival Nelly Korda.
“It’s a big event. You’ve got Nelly, you’ve got Charley, you’ve got Georgie, some of the best players in the world that are going to be there so I think it’s going to be a really good event,” she says. “All of us are competitive, so you’re wanting to do well as well – it’s not a case of just happy to show up.
“I played [the 2022 Aramco Team Series] in New York and I played in the Aramco Saudi Ladies Invitational at the start of the year. They have a semi-major feel to them where we stay in really nice places, we play at really nice golf courses, the food’s really good. We’re treated very well, so I know all the girls really enjoy the events.”