Leona Maguire celebrates her victory at Windsor Golf Club in California
Leona Maguire went a long way towards earning a promotion to next year’s LPGA Tour by winning the Symetra Tour’s Windsor Classic at Windsor Golf Club in Windsor, California, last weekend. Her victory came with a birdie on the first playoff hole after finishing on equal terms with Pajaree Anannarukarn after 54 holes.
Maguire had let victory slip from her grasp the previous week, so she was keen to atone. She was a trifle shaky in her first round as she shot 70, with three bogeys infiltrating her scorecard alongside five birdies. From thereon, however, the ride was essentially smooth.
Saturday’s second round yielded a score of 69. The bogeys (1) were fewer, but so were the birdies (4). That left Maguire three strokes off the lead heading into the final round and she came out smoking, getting birdie at five of the first seven holes.
“The way the greens and pins were, I knew I had to go low to catch Pajaree,” Maguire said of the 36-hole leader. “Everyone was going to make birdies. I knew the way the course was set up today, the greens a bit softer, and I left a lot of chances out there yesterday. Chipped in on the first for birdie, which kickstarted my round, then holed a few nice putts to keep the momentum going.”
Maguire leveled off a bit on the back nine. She birdied 12 and 13, but played evenly the rest of the way in. The four-stroke lead she’d built over Anannarukarn shriveled to nothing after the Thai birdied four of her last six holes, including 18, to force a playoff.
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“I’ve been so close for the past few weeks and started off really well today, tried to keep my foot down,” Maguire said. “I suppose being so close last week gave me a little extra bit of motivation and it tastes a little sweeter today.
“I’ve been a bit more patient this year. I think I was too eager to try and rush things too quick last year, trying to play catch up too much, didn’t give myself enough rest. This year has been nice, working my way into the season with some really good finishes and trying to get better every week. I knew I would get there eventually, took a little longer than I would have liked, but it’s a great feeling.”
The win boosts Maguire, 24, to the top of the Tour’s Order of Merit. The top 10 at season’s end earn promotions to the LPGA Tour. Next up is the Murphy USA El Dorado Shootout at Mystic Creek Golf Club in El Dorado, Arkansas, beginning a three-day run on April 26.
Graeme McDowell proved that the previous week’s win in the Dominican Republic was no fluke by finishing joint-seventh in the Valero Texas Open. At 12-under-par 276 (69-69-72-66), McDowell was eight strokes off the winning number posted by Corey Connors, a first-time victor who qualified for the Masters as a result.
McDowell was close enough to the top of the leaderboard to be in contention through the first two rounds. Thursday’s first round was bogey-free and an eagle on Friday whitewashed the two bogeys he picked up. He played evenly on Saturday over TPC San Antonio’s Oaks Course, but fell several pegs down the leaderboard and was looking just for position as he teed off on Sunday.
A bogey at the first hole on Sunday didn’t augur well, but McDowell responded with birdies at the next two holes. Five more birdies, including one at 17 that resulted from a 22-foot putt, elevated him into the upper echelon of the field.
McDowell moved from 42nd to 38th on the FedEx Cup points list and continues to climb the Official World Golf Rankings. From 238th at the end of 2018, he was 133rd after last week’s victory and is now 115th after his Texas stint.
There are several avenues by which McDowell might qualify for this year’s British Open at Portrush, the two best of which would seem to be playing his way into either the world’s top 50 by May 27 or the FedEx Cup top 20 by June 23. Regardless, he is on an upward trajectory that might next manifest itself in next week’s RBC Heritage at Harbour Town, an event he won in 2013. He is not eligible for this week’s Masters, which might be just as well. In nine tries at Augusta, he made just three cuts and finished inside the top 20 just twice.
Padraig Harrington made the cut in Texas, but got only as far as 54 holes. He scrambled with four birdies midway through Friday’s round to make the 36-hole cut on the number. Continuing issues with the front nine in San Antonio on Saturday conspired to plop him in that nether zone known as “Made cut, did not finish.” So, there was no Sunday play for Harrington.
Seamus Power looked as if his early-season troubles had melted away as he shot a bogey-free 69 on Thursday. He followed that up, however, with a birdie-free 77 on Friday that featured five bogeys. He missed the cut by three strokes.
Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry take the stage for this week’s Masters in Augusta, Georgia.