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Leona Maguire battles back from difficult start to day two to stay one off the lead in California

‘Really proud of how I hung in there and battled back,’ the Cavan woman said. ‘Kept myself in the tournament.’

Maguire fought back from early struggles.
Maguire fought back from early struggles.
Image: SIPA USA/PA Images

AFTER HER SIMPLY stunning opening round 65, Ireland’s Leona Maguire overcame early day two struggles to stay one off the lead at the LPGA Mediheal Championship at Lake Merced Golf Club, California.

Seven-under was where the Cavan woman started the day, with a four shot lead, but she faded fast with bogeys at the first three holes.

Maguire steadied the ship with birdies at the seventh and ninth and after a bogey at 11 she birdied 12 and 15 to get to even for the round, but a bogey at 16 saw her sign for a one-over 73.

At six-under 138 she’s tied for second with American Lauren Kim, who had four birdies in her three-under 69, while Kim’s countrywoman Kang leads the field after her electric six-under par 66.

“Really proud of how I sort of hung in there and battled back and holed some really nice putts and got some really nice up and downs and keep the round going,” Maguire said.

“Kept myself in the tournament,” added the former amateur world number one who is seeking a first LPGA title after two wins on the developmental Symetra tour.

Kang fired seven birdies to grab the one-shot lead halfway through the tournament. The American started the day six shots behind overnight leader Maguire, but climbed steadily with birdies at the third, eighth and ninth holes and two more at the 14th and 15th.

She bounced back from her lone bogey of the day at 16 with a birdie at the par-five 18th for a 36-hole total of seven-under 137.

Kang, who finished tied for 35th in the US Women’s Open at nearby Olympic Club last week, said the warmer weather this week had helped her.

“I play well in really hot weather,” said the world number six, who is seeking a sixth LPGA title. “Evidently, cold weather has not been my forte, but today weather was on my side.”

That doesn’t mean Lake Merced didn’t pose plenty of challenges, particularly its poa annua greens.

“I actually played really well from the beginning, better than I did on the back nine,” Kang said. “I just couldn’t quite get the ball to the hole, but I knew I was putting well.

“The greens are slick and fast, and being poa, it’s just a little scary,” she added. “You have to trust your lines, and that’s what I’ve been doing. (I) just kept putting the way I did and (they) started dropping on the back nine.”

For San Francisco area resident and joint-second Kim, the tournament is a welcome home fixture.

“It’s amazing to stay at home, sleep in my own bed,” the 26-year-old American said. “Just have the local support and know that people that are rooting for me are really close by.”

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Although she played the Lake Merced course often as a junior golfer, she said she hadn’t played it much in recent years.

“It’s kind of fun to come back and just see how your game improves on the same course over like a decade of playing it,” said Kim, who is hoping the familiar territory will help buoy a disappointing 2021.

She missed the cut in her first three starts this year and finished 81st in her last start, the Pure Silk Championship.

“It really has been a struggle,” she said. “I’ve been kind of grinding away and hoping for results and kind of patiently waiting,” she said.

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© – AFP, 2021

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