Leona Maguire, quite literally, didn’t put a foot wrong in getting off to a solid start in the Amundi Evian Championship at the upmarket resort on the shore of Lake Geneva in France, where the 26-year-old Co Cavan golfer signed for a two-under-par 69 in the fourth Major of the 2021 women’s professional schedule.
On a day when world number one Nelly Korda, who secured a breakthrough success in the KPMG PGA only last month, struggled to justify favouritism and faces an uphill battle to survive the midway cut after opening with a 74, Maguire sure-footedly negotiated the layout at the foot of the Alps with a bogey-free round that saw birdies at the Pa- 5 ninth and 15th holes.
Maguire, currently ranked 60th in the world, is kick-starting a busy schedule away from the United States that is also taking in the Olympics in Tokyo in a fortnight’s time followed by LPGA Tour-counting events, the Scottish Open and the AIG Women’s Open.
In contrast, Stephanie Meadow – who will be accompanying Maguire to the Olympics – had a hugely adventurous level-par 71 opening round, which featured five birdies along with three birdies and a double bogey.
The clubhouse lead was claimed by Thailand’s Pagaree Anannarakarn and American Yealim Noh who each signed for 65s. But it proved to be an altogether tougher assignment for the in-form Korda, twice a winner in recent months, at the Meijer Classic and the PGA, who struggled in a round where she managed just one birdie to go with five bogeys.
As Lydia Ko, a past champion and currently 10th in the world rankings described the challenge, “I think my driver went 100 yards off the tee on the first, and I hadn’t done that before. I’ve hit it in some wild spots around here and I’ve also hit some really good ones . . . I think you just have to be smart.
“At the end of the day it is a Major championship, so it’s not going to be super easy. Sometimes a bogey, if that’s the worst thing that’s going to happen, it’s not really the worst-case scenario. It’s just being smart, but at the same time when you’ve got the green light, be aggressive with it.”
Noh, for her part, got off to a flying start when holing out her 9-iron approach shot from 126 yards for an eagle two on the Par-4 opening hole: “I think it’s the first time I’ve ever done that. I was just like, ‘what?’ It was really cool!”
Seeking her first win on the LPGA Tour, the 19-year-old American – who made headlines for the wrong reasons earlier this season when fined for slow play at the Kia Classic – added of her strong start: “I hit a lot of greens, made a few good putts and just played really consistent. No big errors, just fairway, green, putting. It’s always easier said but it was good.”