Irish rookie Leona Maguire blasted a 7-under-65 at Lake Merced to top the first round of the LPGA MEDIHEAL, the second-straight event on the Tour in the San Francisco Peninsula.
Lexi Thompson followed her collapse to ninth at the US Open at the nearby Olympic Club with 71 points, while Michelle Wee West rallied to score 73.
After a vacation last week after failing to qualify for the Women’s Open, Maguire had nine birds and two ghosts. The 26-year-old former Duke star managed to match the championship record in Game Three of the event, missing a chance to break it when she closed in with a bogey in the ninth.
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“It’s a tough golf course,” Maguire said.
“You really have to get into a lot of lanes, a lot of greens. I’ve been playing really well lately. Things haven’t been quite clicking, and they clicked really well this morning.” Jasmine Suwannapura of Thailand shot 66, a Par-5 18 bird in the late afternoon to pull inside one.
Albany Valenzuela, a former Stanford player from Switzerland, suffered another injury with Alison Lee. Cardinal’s former classmate Emily Wang was carrying a Valenzuela bag.
“I just graduated from a master’s degree in international politics, and is a student at the Rhodes School,” Valenzuela said.
“So, it’s probably, the smartest can of the week because it beats everyone else.” Thompson flew the ghost on the 2 and 3 with an eagle on the 5 bar 5, the other three flew 5 times and had 2 ghosts.
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On Sunday at the Olympic, I broke a 5-stroke lead, playing the last seven holes on 5-points to finish a two-stroke from a playoff won by Yuka Sassu.
Wie West was four years old with four holes left, then did a par-5 eagle at number 15 and a par-4 flyer at number six. She has yet to make a cut in her four starts since returning from having her first child, shooting a 74-80 last week at the Olympics.
Hall of Famer Inbee Park was four hits again at 69 with Jennifer Kupshaw, Da Eun Lee, Mariahjo Uribe, Jane Park, and Lauren Kim.
“The atmosphere is a little different than this week. It makes me feel a little more relaxed after last week,” Enppi Park said, after dropping out of the seventh-place match at the Olympics.
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Maguire has played alongside his former co-champions, Sei Young Kim (2018) and Florida neighbor Lydia Ko (2019). Ko had five birds and five ghosts at 72, while Kim had four birds and five ghosts at 73.
“It was so much fun to play with Lydia,” Maguire said.
“We’ve been playing a lot over the past few months at Lake Nona and she’s a great player. Obviously, Si Young too and they know what they’re doing here, they’ve had some good success so we tried to learn a little bit from them.”
Maguire made four of the first six holes, fired a shot at the fourth and sixteenth level, and then had three straight birds. She added two more birds before making the final ghost on the track that reminds her of Ireland.
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Maguire said, “I suppose the weather is like home, even a golf course is like home. It’s very green and somewhat treeless like what we get at home. Northern California was good for me and I won my first event in Symetra not far from here, So this kind of golf course suits me.”
Stanford player Rachel Hick, the NCAA MVP of the year playing on the sponsor’s exemption, opened with a 76 in the group with Wie West.
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Lucy Lee, who also works in the sponsor exemption business, scored 71.
Brooke Henderson shot a 77. She flew two of the top three, then dropped seven hits with a five bogey and a double bogey.
NASA’s Hataoka Sasou, the women’s qualifier loser, overtook the event.