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Leona Maguire enjoys best-ever finish at a major at Women's Open

The Cavan golfer carded a flawless closing 66 to sign off in a tie for fourth.

It was a landmark day for Leona Maguire.
It was a landmark day for Leona Maguire.
Image: Alamy Stock Photo

LEONA MAGUIRE HAS secured her best finish to date at a major championship — a tie for fourth at the AIG Women’s Open.

The Cavan woman recorded the low round of the day, a flawless closing 66, which saw her finish on seven-under, three shots off Ashleigh Buhai of South Africa, who triumphed after a play-off in Muirfield.

Maguire had an eagle on the fifth, along with birdies on the fourth, 11th and 13th, and she signed off in joint-fourth alongside Madelene Sagstrom and Minjee Lee.

She also pocketed $309,546 (€304,189) in prize money for her efforts, after 71s on Thursday and Saturday and a round of 69 on Friday. 

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“I’m really pleased,” Maguire said afterwards, her previous best finish sixth at the 2021 Evian Championship.

“I don’t think I could have played much better today. Had a few chances coming in, would have been nice to hole a couple more putts, but it was tough out there and definitely my best golf of the week so far.

“Any time you shoot bogey-free under par in the last round of a major you’re happy so it’s nice momentum heading into next week (the ISPS Handa World Invitational in Northern Ireland).”

Two decades after her idol Ernie Els won the Open at Muirfield, Buhai followed in his footsteps after a dramatic finish to the £6million AIG Women’s Open.

Els had to come through a four-man, five-hole play-off to claim his third major title in 2002 and Buhai required four extra holes to win her first by beating South Korea’s In Gee Chun after giving up two seemingly commanding leads.

Five shots clear heading into the final round, Buhai was still three ahead with four holes to play, only to run up a triple-bogey seven on the 15th after finding sand off the tee and splashing out sideways into heavy rough.

That dropped the 33-year-old into a tie for the lead with Chun, the three-time major winner then completing a closing 70 in the group ahead to set the clubhouse target on 10 under.

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After her birdie putt on the par-five 17th caught the edge of the hole and stayed out, Buhai had to hole from four feet on the last to force a play-off after charging her long birdie attempt past the hole.

The players returned to the 18th for extra holes and Chun brilliantly saved par from a greenside bunker to keep her hopes alive, with Buhai two-putting from long range.

Both players missed the green on the second extra hole and hit poor third shots before Chun inexplicably charged her par putt eight feet past the hole, but the 27-year-old recovered her composure to salvage a bogey after Buhai’s long par attempt came up short.

Despite the fading light and dropping temperature, Chun and Buhai both hit superb shots into the green on the third extra hole, but neither was able to convert.

It was debatable whether a fifth extra hole would have been possible if required, but Buhai finally settled the outcome in style with a brilliant bunker shot setting up a tap-in par which Chun – who had found sand off the tee – was unable to match.

Former champion Hinako Shibuno finished a shot outside the play-off after a final round of 71.

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