Leona Maguire defends her LPGA Drive On Championship title

Leona Maguire defends her maiden LPGA Tour title in Arizona
Leona Maguire defends her maiden LPGA Tour title in Arizona

IN a career that has been full of breakthrough successes and historic moments, Leona Maguire is enjoying her first taste of returning to a tournament as defending champion this week on the LPGA Tour.

The 28-year-old is back on America soil trying to retain the LPGA Drive On Championship at Superstition Mountain and Country Club in Arizona.

“It’s been a cool experience so far. Definitely been a busy week, a lot of extra things to do, but it’s a good problem to have I suppose. And nice to be here in the desert,” said Leona ahead of her opening round today.

“Looking forward to a great week. I played really nice golf in Asia, so hopefully I can build on that momentum this week.”

Maguire became the first player from Ireland to win on the LPGA Tour when she grabbed the Drive On title last year. Currently ranked 12th in the world, the Cavan golfer hasn’t finished outside the top 20 in her last five starts.

“The year has kind of flown by. Doesn’t seem that long ago,” she said.

“I think I went into that week and it was the second event of the year last year. I went in with really no expectations and just played really well.

“I didn’t do a lot of things wrong. Hit my irons really close, and gave myself a lot of chances all week.

“I didn’t look at a lot of leaderboards. I just tried to post as low a score as I could every day. I think on Sunday I remember looking at the scoreboard on 16. I think I was four ahead at that point and was shocked. I just tried to par my way in from there to finish it off.”

The tournament is taking place at a new venue this year and Leona has been doing her best to get used to the conditions.

She added: “Last year I think at Crown Colony it was really windy all week and you had to plot your way around the golf course and stay really patient. 

“This week may get windy, I’m not really sure yet. It’s definitely firm and fast so far. We’ll see what happens with the rain.

“I think course management is going to be a big thing this week. It’s pretty wide open off the tee. You can hit it pretty much anywhere, but around the greens, it’s going to be tricky. So hitting a lot of greens and trying to take advantage of them [will be key].

“If the pin’s at the front you’re going to have to bounce it short of the green and if it’s back, you still have to feed the ball in there.

“So a little bit of extra thinking is required this week.”

Maguire will tee off today at 2.55pm (GMT) from the 10th tee alongside Lexi Thompson and Atthaya Thitikul.