In Final Tune-Up for Baltusrol, Leona Maguire Wins in Michigan
Maguire Wins at Blythefield Country Club; Other Players to Watch Heading Into Major Week
The third time was a charm for Leona Maguire, as – after two straight years of finishing runner up, Maguire left no doubt Sunday at the Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give.
Maguire shot an 8-under 64 in the final round to win by two over Ariya Jutanugarn. Her tidy final-round effort included a run of going 6 under for her final six holes of the tournament, including birdies on her final three holes.
The Irishwoman fell just short of Nelly Korda in a final-round duel in 2021 and lost in a playoff last year.
“The goal today was just to go out and shoot as low a score as possible and see where I ended up,” Maguire said. “This one is I think that little bit sweeter after coming so close two years in a row. I know a lot of people this week were saying ‘You're due one, this course owes you something,’ all the rest.
“But I suppose that's not golf. Golf usually doesn't work like that. But nice that it all worked out well for me this week.”
Jutanugarn was in a fine position herself after birding Nos. 13 and 14 but couldn’t add any other circles to her scorecard until the par-5 18th. At that point it was too little, too late.
The victory was Maguire’s second on the LPGA Tour, after the Drive On Championship in 2022.
Maguire was in the penultimate trio of the day (with Jutanugarn) and was attempting to put some pressure on the final group of Amy Yan, Xiyu Lin, and Ashleigh Buhai. Yang was the 54-hole leader by one shot over a group of three including Buhai – who won last week’s ShopRite LPGA Classic and was looking to win back-to-back LPGA Tour starts.
Buhai started with two bogeys in a row in the final round, however, and couldn’t claw her way back. She finished tied for 13th. Lin fired a 4-under 68, while Yang shot a final-round 69 to finish tied for third.
Last year’s Meijer LPGA Classic winner, Jennifer Kupcho, was in the mix again but ended up tied for sixth. Kupcho couldn’t have asked for a better start to the final round, as she went 5-under through a five-hole stretch on the front nine including an ace on the par-3 5th. She gave most of those shots back on the second nine, though, coming in with a 2-over 38.
Still, while plenty of the game’s biggest names were part of the conversation Sunday, Maguire topped them all. And now she’ll look ahead to Baltusrol with lots of confidence.
“Obviously to get my second win is obviously very nice, and I'll try and give myself as best a chance as possible in the remaining majors this year.
But I didn't put any pressure on myself this week, so not going to do that for the rest of the season and just enjoy my golf as much as I can.
“I feel like my confidence has been few weeks case of getting it all to come together and the goal was to be coming into good form heading into Baltusrol and (the U.S. Women’s Open), so we've peaked a week early, which is nice, so hopefully we can continue that run of form.”
Maguire’s form indeed peaked this week, but next week is the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, so here are four other names to keep an eye on heading into the second major of the season on the LPGA Tour.
Vu captured the first major of the year, the Chevron Championship. It was her second title of the season, having won the Honda LPGA Thailand to kickstart her 2023 campaign. Vu is ranked fourth in the world. She’s got the second-lowest scoring average of anyone on the LPGA Tour, thanks in large part to her putting – she’s fourth in Putting Average for the season.
Jin Young Ko
Ko – the top-ranked golfer in the women’s game – is, like Vu, a two-time winner this season. Ko won the HSBC Women’s World Championship and the Cognizant Founders Cup and finished tied for ninth at The Chevron Championship. Ko’s ball striking is some of the best on Tour, as she is second on Tour in Greens in Regulation. Somewhat surprisingly, the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship is the only major on the LPGA Tour that Ko has not notched a top-10 finish at.
What more can be said about Zhang? The college superstar left Stanford University this spring but not before she won 12 times while in college – surpassing Tiger Woods – plus Maverick McNealy and Patrick Rodgers – for the most in school history (any time you do something more than Tiger Woods, you’ve had a pretty darn good stretch) and made an immediate splash on the LPGA Tour. She won the Mizuho Americas Open in a playoff over Jennifer Kupcho, becoming the first person to win in their LPGA Tour debut as a pro since 1951. The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship will be Zhang’s first major championship as a pro, although she has played eight majors as an amateur.
The former world No.1 – and past KPMG Women’s PGA Championship winner – will return to action at Baltusrol. Korda withdrew from the Mizuho Americas Open citing back soreness. However, she took to social media this weekend to post a status update with all signs pointing towards her return to action at the KPMG Women’s PGA. “Grateful for my team. One step at a time,” she wrote in part. Before taking a few weeks off, Korda was one of the Tour’s hottest golfers. In her eight starts so far this season, Korda has finished outside the top six just once. She finished third at the Chevron Championship, the first major of the season. Korda won the 2021 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship for her first major and ascended to world No.1 for the first time.