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Dublin: 8°C Wednesday 24 February 2021

Leona Maguire shouldn’t be so disappointed - but it speaks volumes that she is

Maguire “way outperforming her ranking,” Paul McGinley says.

Maguire, 21, has twin sister Lisa on the bag for her this week.
Maguire, 21, has twin sister Lisa on the bag for her this week.
Image: Chris Carlson

– Niall Kelly reports from the Olympic Golf Course, Rio de Janeiro

LEONA MAGUIRE COULDN’T help but consider what might have been.

As one of just three amateurs in the 60-strong field for the Olympic golf tournament, few realistically expected her to contend for a medal against the world’s best.

But after a stunning 65 on Friday which propelled her right up the leaderboard, she set out on her third round in 22nd place and very much in the mix.

Beside her on the first tee stood Lydia Ko and Lexi Thompson — world number one and four respectively, with three Majors between them.

She was in esteemed company but the world’s leading amateur wasn’t fazed. When she rolled in her second birdie putt of the day to move to -5, all of a sudden, the medals were within touching distance just three shots away.

Maguire was rock solid on the front nine while beside her, Ko made four birdies as well as a hole-in-one at the eighth.

But her round, and her medal hopes, came unstuck as the wind picked up in the afternoon. Three dropped shots in as many holes on 12, 13 and 14 dented her momentum before two more bogeys on 16 and 18 saw her finish the day with a three-over par 74.

It saw her slip back to a tie for 22nd place on level par — 11 shots off Inbee Park’s lead and nine outside the medal places.

Rio Olympic Games 2016 - Day Fourteen Source: Chris Carlson

Her disappointment couldn’t have been more obvious.

“I played really well for the first 11 holes and then the wind started to really pick up,” she told The42. ”It was affecting putts quite a lot and I just never really judged it quite right.

I thought I played a lot better than I shot. I just got out of position a little bit on the back nine.

The winds were “borderline”, she added, “three-, four-club wind.” The organisers clearly agreed and brought forward the tee-times for Saturday’s final round to minimise the impact of the forecast 30kph gusts, as well as switching to a two-tee start.

Maguire gets her final round underway at 11.27am Irish time while Stephanie Meadow, who sits a shot further back on one-over after a third-round 71, is off 11 minutes earlier.

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The message she will have heard from team leader Paul McGinley on Friday night was loud and clear — park the disappointment and appreciate what a sensational Olympic tournament she has had to this point.

“Listen, bottom line is this girl was ranked 53rd here,” McGinley said shortly after Maguire finished.

“She’s against a world class field and she’s now disappointed to be 28th in the tournament. She’s way outperforming her ranking in a world-class field.

“None of the ladies pulled out, unlike the men’s tournament, so she’s talking about playing against 20 of the top 25 in the world here.

This is a world-class field, she’s outperforming so many, she’s doing great. Let’s be realistic about what’s going on here.

“That’s the perspective I’m going to give to her now. I’m going to let her cool down a little bit first and then we’ll go and have a chat. That’s the perspective.”

Rio Olympic Games 2016 - Day Fourteen Source: Chris Carlson

In Ko’s super 65, the low round of the day, Maguire caught a glimpse of the level she aspires to be at herself.

“That’s what this week is about, playing against the best players in the world, and those two (Ko and Thompson) are.

Lydia was very impressive today, didn’t put a foot wrong. That’s what I’m aiming for. I just have to learn from what I did today and try to be better.

Pádraig Harrington was one of a number of Irish Olympians in attendance on Friday, as were boxers Paddy Barnes and Joe Ward, and the three-time Major winner was making notes as he watched both Meadow and Maguire.

“There’s a lot of input that they’re going to get from both us and it’s all positive,” McGinley said.

We’ve got two girls this week who are going to be the future of Irish golf. They’re highly talented and I think there’s a lot to look forward to.

“Both of them are at the very beginning of their careers. Leona has qualified for the Olympics as an amateur. It’s an incredible achievement just to be here.”

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About the author:

Niall Kelly

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