Leona Maguire looking for Major momentum as she defends LPGA Drive On title in Arizona

Leona Maguire. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

Brian Keogh

Leona Maguire is looking to build up a head of steam for the opening women’s Major of the year as she begins her defence of the LPGA Drive On title in Arizona tomorrow.

The Co Cavan star made history 13 months ago when she won at Crown Colony Golf & Country Club in Florida to become the first Irishwoman to win on the LPGA Tour.

The event has moved to Superstition Mountain Golf & Country Club’s Prospector Course in Arizona this year.

But after racking up two top 10s from her first four starts this term after trips to Florida, Saudi Arabia, Thailand and Singapore, she’s looking to move up a gear ahead of a trip to The Woodlands in Texas for the opening women’s Major, The Chevron Championship from April 12-15.

“It's a cool experience so far,” the Ballyconnell star said of her first LPGA defence.

“Definitely been a busy week, a lot extra things to do, but a good problem to have, I suppose. And nice to be here in the desert. Very different to Fort Myers last year.

“Looking forward to a great week. Played really nice golf good Asia, so hopefully I can build on that momentum this week.”

This year’s desert venue is far greener than she expected due to a rainy start to the week, but she’s determined to focus on her course management after spending the past two weeks working in her irons, wedges and putting so she’s sharp for that first Major.

“It’s definitely firm and fast so far,” the world number 12 explained. “We'll see what happens with the rain. I think course management is going to be a big thing this week.

“It's pretty wide open off the tee. You can hit it pretty much anywhere, but around the greens it's going to be tricky. So hitting a lot of greens and trying to take advantage of them.

“The greens are rolling pure, so trying to hole as many putts as possible this week.”

She has fond memories of her maiden win, which came in just her second start last season.

“Went in with really no expectations and just played really well,” she said.

“Hit it solid all week. Didn't do a lot of things wrong. Hit my irons really close, gave myself a lot of chances all week. Didn't look at a lot of leaderboards.

“Just tried to post as low a score as I could every day. Yeah, I think on Sunday, I remember looking at the scoreboard on 16 and I was -- I think I was four ahead at that point and was shock and just tried to par my way in from there to finish it off.”

After playing only limited field events so far, Maguire describes this week as having a “back to school” feel as she gets to see players she hasn’t seen since last year, including Arizona-based Stephanie Meadow.

But her focus is on honing her game for a crack at a maiden Major win in Texas next month.

“Yeah, I mean, clocked up a few miles to start the year for sure,” she said. “Yeah, it's nice to be back. We’ve got the West Coast Swing coming up.

“Been a little stop-start to start the year, but, yeah, this week in Arizona, next week in LA, and then getting ready for Chevron in a few weeks.

“That's where the focus is, and just try get a few solid of weeks of momentum. When it's been stop-start, it's hard to get momentum, so trying to bring those sort of things we've been working on in practice to tournament golf.

“I've been working on my irons a lot, dialling those in. Wedges. I played really, really nice golf in Thailand and Singapore; I just didn't hole quite enough putts in Singapore.

“So a lot of focus on my putting in the last few weeks, just fine-tuning everything. Nothing glaring, but just trying to make sure everything is as good as possible heading into these weeks.”

With the Chevron Championship moving two weeks later on the schedule at a new venue, she hopes to play as many rounds as possible over the next month.

“Yeah, it's a little different, a little later this year,” said Maguire, who will play next week’s LA Open before taking a week off to get ready for The Woodlands.

“Trying to get as much golf under my belt as possible before then.

“I'm taking Hawaii off. Not going to Hawaii. Apart from that, get used to West Coast again, poa annua greens.

“I suppose the focus for them is more (for June’s US Women’s Open at) Pebble (Beach) than Chevron, but we did play an event my senior year at The Woodlands in Texas, so I've been there before, which is nice.

“I’m just trying to put myself in position, move myself as high up the leaderboard each week as I can and put in those positions to be ready for Chevron.”

As for this week, she said: “It's like first day back at school again almost and everybody has new golf bags and new clothes and all the rest. Plenty to catch up on.

“It's nice to see everybody excited and ready to go for the new season.

“We played the ASU event in my freshman year in college. Pretty sure it was a million degrees and I was putting on sunscreen every two holes.

“So this is a little bit different. I have plenty of friends in the Phoenix-Scottsdale area, so nice to catch up with them this week.

“Yeah, it's a nice part of the world to be in. A lot greener than I expected, but hopefully, we'll get some drier weather and warmer sort of weather over the next few days.”