Leona Maguire's strong finish powers her to three-shot lead at Meijer LPGA Classic

The Ireland native finished with a par, eagle and a 30-foot birdie to take a three-shot lead at the end of the second round.

Leona Maguire's strong finish powers her to three-shot lead at Meijer LPGA Classic

BELMONT, Mich. — As the holes were filling up on Leona Maguire’s scorecard, it looked like she’d been in a tie for first place heading into the weekend at the Meijer LPGA Classic.

Then her final three holes happened.

The Ireland native finished with a par, eagle and a 30-foot birdie to take a three-shot lead at the end of the second round. She finished the day 8 under to make her total score for the tournament 15 under, three shots better than her closest competitor.

“We were kind of in-between clubs. I absolutely flushed a 5 hybrid, [it] went way further than I thought and pitched pin high and stayed on the green,” Duncan said. “And another really nice putt on nine, that pin was really tucked. I just tried to be disciplined, played 30 feet right of the hole and took my chance.”

She started the round hot, shooting a 5-under 31 on her first nine. But a couple of errant drives cost her once she made the turn, and she turned in consecutive bogeys. Still, she got back on track, going 5 under over her final five holes.

The 26-year-old had to fend off challengers Suh Oh (12 under), who finished 7 under on the day, and Lindy Duncan (11 under ), who also shot 7 under. Maguire said she’s used to having one good day at a tournament, but usually can’t string together consecutive solid days. Her impressive performance has given her confidence heading into the final two rounds.

“Was really proud of how I came out today,” Maguire said. “Last week in San Francisco I was leading after day one and struggled on day two, so it was nice to put a really good number back to back in rounds one and two and even go one better today.”

While she’s in the driver’s seat for her first LPGA win, Duncan is sitting just four shots back looking for her first title as well. It was a career day for the South Floridian, shooting 5 under on her back nine to take the lead into the clubhouse until Maguire and Oh overtook her late in the afternoon.

Even though there was a two-hour rain delay in the morning before she was able to tee off, that might have helped Duncan. She said the greens felt smoother and slower, which let her play a bit more aggressively. But the wet weather still made for its own challenges.

“I think the front nine it was pretty receptive and the greens were definitely rolling a bit smoother,” Duncan said. “I kind of just tried to take it one hole at a time and just take notes as I went on and just tried to pay attention to those little things…it was definitely changing.”

Oh, who took off in the afternoon, is just three shots back of Maguire. She had a bogey-free round Friday and has played just one hole over par through the first two days.

Still, she’s not getting too far ahead of herself thinking of glory. She doesn’t have a score in mind she wants to hit the rest of the weekend. The Australian is just taking it one shot at a time.

“[I] just kind of kept my cool. I think that was quite good,” Oh said. “I guess just have to kind of hit one shot and then the next shot and see how it turns out, just kind of keep it going.”

Nelly Korda, the No. 2-ranked player in the world, made a move on Friday. She shot 6 under for the day, bringing her overall score to 10 under, well within striking distance.

“The greens were definitely a lot softer today so you could be more aggressive,” Korda said. “So I could really hit my numbers today, and I had a lot of good numbers going in.”

The surprise of the tournament is that two-time Meijer LPGA Classic winner Brooke Henderson missed the cut. She shot a 75 on Thursday and rebounded with a 5 under 67 but it wasn’t enough. She finished 2 under, 1 off the cutline.

But back at the top, Maguire is living in the moment. She and Duncan both played college golf at Duke, though they never crossed paths in Durham. Still, they’ve become close friends, practicing together outside of Orlando.

As they head into the final rounds in West Michigan, the two Blue Devils might have to go head to head for their first tournament victory.

“We practice and play together quite a bit,” Maguire said. “She’s been a good friend of mine, and it’ll be nice to go head-to-head with her down the stretch this weekend.”

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Lynch: The U.S. Open, the meanest major of them all, doesn’t do fairytales, but Richard Bland believes

Richard Bland emerged as an unlikely hero at the U.S. Open even though this championship has never really been an incubator of fairytales.

Lynch: The U.S. Open, the meanest major of them all, doesn’t do fairytales, but Richard Bland believes

SAN DIEGO — Despite the decades of ceaseless agitprop—Francis Ouimet’s upset, Ben Hogan’s comeback, Payne Stewart’s farewell, e pluribus unum marketing—the U.S. Open has never really been an incubator of fairytales. Of dramas, sure. And thrillers. But the previous 120 editions of this championship have witnessed more horrors than syrupy, feel-good fables.

That might explain why Richard Bland was beating balls on the range long after completing his second round at the top of the leaderboard at Torrey Pines. In U.S. Opens, nice guys with a great back story—the 48-year-old Englishman just won his first event in his 478th start—tend to meet the same fate as that kid in a slasher movie who decides to go investigate the noise.

We watch, hoping for the best but with a grim sense of foreboding.

Bland won’t be alone in feeling the vice tighten over the next 48 hours at Torrey Pines to where only one man (maybe) is still drawing breath. The U.S. Open is the most pitiless of the majors, each day a punishing gauntlet from which no competitor ever seems to emerge saying he shot the best score possible. Every round concludes with an official tallying of strokes, and a more private, rueful accounting of those left out there. By mid-afternoon Friday, the 156 players in the field had passed 1,000 bogeys made with the likelihood of a couple hundred more before sunset.

The South Course at Torrey Pines is the most architecturally prosaic venue the USGA visits and would be Exhibit ‘A’ in any malpractice suit against the ‘Open Doctor,’ Rees Jones. But it is adequate for what modern U.S. Opens are intended to do, which is expose every weakness from technical flaws to faintness of heart. Laudable design is immaterial to that objective on the logic that any course can be made difficult. It requires only fertilizer, green rollers and a dab of sadism.

Check. Check. And check.

The leaderboard at the 121st Open is bookended by men in their late 40s: Bland and, 22 strokes to his south, an Australian qualifier named Steve Allan. Until this week, Allan hadn’t competed in a major for 11 years and hadn’t made a cut in one for 16 years. He and Bland have combined for 13 career starts in major championships, just a few more than Phil Mickelson’s six victories in them.

Steve Allan plays a shot on the 17th hole during the second round at the 2021 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego, Calif. on Friday, June 18, 2021. (Darren Carroll/USGA)

Unlike at the Masters, a U.S. Open leaderboard is where kings and cobblers collide. Just 34 days ago, Bland was unknown to even attentive golf fans. Now he finds himself being pursued by guys like Louis Oosthuizen, Bubba Watson and Brooks Koepka (who has won more majors than his prey has played). The elite and the everyman mingle at the other end of matters too. Allan was only four shots worse than Justin Rose, who has finished top 8 in both previous majors this year. On any given day, the talent gap between the best and the rest just isn’t that yawning.

Allan will have some well-known company at the airline check-in desk tonight. Will Zalatoris was runner-up at the Masters and hit as many greens in two days as the leader (26), but a balky putter condemned him. Webb Simpson had won the U.S. Open as many times as he had missed the cut, until today. Billy Horschel, Sam Burns and Garrick Higgo are all good enough to have won recently on the PGA Tour, but weren’t good enough this week to survive the cut. One troubled phenom returned (Matt Wolff) while a comparatively serene one (Viktor Hovland) departed early, WD’ing with an eye injury.

As the second round began to wind down, the north and south poles of the halfway leaderboard were separated by only nine shots. Like most Friday afternoons at U.S. Opens, players made progress long after they had completed their rounds. Rory McIlroy signed for a scrappy 73 shortly before 1 p.m. that left him 1 over for the tournament but he figured he’d be in the top 20 by day’s end. Within a couple hours, he was. Veterans of Open wars—in experience, if not in age— know that sometimes you just have to sit back and let the USGA do its work for you.

The man who spent much of the day in the lead, has only ever played one U.S. Open. But Bland has taken his share of gut punches. He lost several playoffs in qualifying. “I’m not going to lose any sleep over that,” he said cheerfully. “I’m just enjoying this one right now.” When you come across a 48-year-old man who believes in fairytales because he’s seen too much of the other side, it makes you want to believe right along with him. No matter how much we are conditioned to expect something else. Odds are that Bland won’t sleep tonight, but he will dream.

Source : Golf Week More   

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