Morning Chronicle - Ireland's Maguire captures first LPGA title by three strokes

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Ireland's Maguire captures first LPGA title by three strokes
Ireland's Maguire captures first LPGA title by three strokes

Ireland's Maguire captures first LPGA title by three strokes

Ireland's Leona Maguire captured her first LPGA title on Saturday, firing a five-under par 67 to win the Drive On Championship by three strokes.

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The 27-year-old former amateur world number one sank seven birdies against two bogeys to finish on 18-under 198 for the 54-hole event at Crown Colony in Fort Myers, Florida.

"It has been a long time coming. You don't know if it's actually going to happen until it does," Maguire said.

"I tried to stay really patient today and didn't get ahead of myself. Wanted to go out and just shoot a number. I didn't want anybody to have to hand it to me. I wanted to go out and win it myself."

Maguire kept calm under the pressure of delivering the biggest triumph of her career.

"Just really proud of the way I played," she said. "I was trying to go out and shoot 20-under par. That was my goal today. I was feeling really calm. Was staying in the moment."

American Lexi Thompson fired a final-round 65 to grab second on 201, one stroke ahead of compatriot Sarah Schmelzel, who shot 64.

China's Lin Xiyu, who had a 63, shared fourth on 203 with Thailand's Patty Tavatanakit and Americans Stacy Lewis, Marina Alex and Brittany Altomare.

Maguire, the first Irish winner of an LPGA event, had the lowest final-round score in a major by any man or woman with a 61 at last year's Evian Championship in France.

"She's such an amazing player, Thompson said of Maguire. "She has been striking it well and has made some great putts out here this week. She's an amazing talent and I think (the victory) will help her out a lot."

- Early birdies 'huge' -

Alex and Maguire shared the lead when the final round began and both birdied the par-4 second hole. Maguire took a bogey at the par-3 third but Alex fell back as well with a bogey at the sixth.

Maguire birdied the par-3 seventh to seize the lead and both women birdied the eighth and parred the ninth to make the turn with the Irish standout ahead by one.

"That birdie on seven was huge and that birdie on eight was huge," she said. "I knew someone was going to go low."

Maguire began the back nine with back-to-back birdies to lead by three over Alex and Thompson, who charged into contention with birdies at the par-5 fifth and par-4 sixth holes and a birdie-eagle-birdie run at the ninth through 11th holes.

"Holing out at 10 and then making the birdie at 11, I knew I had to be somewhat close," Thompson said. "I just tried to stay in the moment. focus on my pre-shot routine. I knew I had to make birdies."

Thompson and Alex birdied the par-4 13th, but Maguire did the same to restore her three-stroke edge.

Bogeys by Alex at 15 and Thompson at 16 plus a birdie for Maguire at 16 allowed the Irish standout to cruise down the stretch, able to finish with a bogey at 18 and still win comfortably.

"You say you want to enjoy it but it's hard until that final putt drops," said Maguire. "Little disappointed to bogey the last, but it happens."

Thompson pulled a back muscle in Thursday's opening round and was sore the last two days.

"It was overall a great week. I played well," she said. "I was just happy to be out there."