Leona Maguire says she's ready for the ‘biggest honour’ of her career when she tees it up at the Olympic Games next week.
The Cavan star is fresh off the back of equalling major golf history on Sunday, when she shot a flawless 10-under par 61 in the final round of the Amundi Evian Championship.
It was enough to secure her best result yet in a Major championship, tied-sixth at 13-under-par for the week.
Unfortunately, that was still five shots back of winner Minjee Lee, the Australian coming from seven shots back to triumph in a play-off over third round leader Jeongeun Lee6, but it was still a great week for the Irish woman.
And now she’ll board the plane to Tokyo, where she will tee it up in the women’s event for Ireland alongside Jordanstown’s Stephanie Meadow, who finished with a 67 to reach a tie for 29th at the Evian Resort GC.
The women’s four-day Olympic tournament begins next Tuesday, August 3 at 11.30pm and, unlike fellow Team Ireland competitor Rory McIlroy, who questioned whether there was ‘much to look forward to’ at the Games, Maguire can’t wait to touch down in Japan.
"Really excited,” she said. “I was fortunate enough to play (at the Olympics) in Rio five years ago as an amateur. It will be a different experience this time. Hopefully the few years of professional golf under my belt will help me. I’ve never been to Asia before so I’m excited to go to Japan.
“I don't know what really to expect, but representing your country at the Olympic Games is the biggest honour you can have. I’m really excited for that.”
Maguire’s Evian finish will likely see her break into the top-50 in the world rankings for the first time in her career, while it seems more likely than ever that she will be one of Catriona Matthew’s six captain’s picks for the Solheim Cup in August.
“When we were in the middle of the rain delay before I teed off, I thought it was going to be quite a tough day,” laughed Maguire, who tied the existing record set by Lee6 in Friday’s second round and Hyo Joo Kim at the same tournament in 2014.
“We saw Lee6 (shoot 61) the other day and you know it is possible, but everything kind of has to go your way.
“Birdie on the first and then holed a really nice putt on the second. Just kind of snowballed from there, really.”
The Slieve Russell ace started the day 15 shots back of Lee6, however she quickly got under par, birdieing her opening three holes before adding two more at the seventh and eighth.
She added another birdie at the 10th and then finished in style with four straight birdies to tie the record.
It could have been Maguire’s record on her own had her eagle putt at the 18th dropped for an 11-under 60, but she had to settle for a share.
“I’ve been consistent, giving myself opportunities and my irons have been good,” said Maguire on her form this season, which has seen her finish in the top-10 on five occasions.
“It really boils down then to how I putt. There wasn’t a whole lot of difference between the 61 and 71 (on Saturday). I came off the course (on Saturday) feeling like I played great but didn’t hole any putts, and today they went in. It’s fine margins, as is golf.”
At the top, overnight leader Lee6 had looked nailed on to close out the win as she held a five-shot lead going into the final day, but she collapsed on her front nine, dropping five shots in seven holes to fall out of the lead.
That allowed Lee and the USA’s Yealimi Noh to overtake the Korean, and it was Lee who set the clubhouse target at 18-under after an impressive 64.
Noh had a putt to force a play-off on the 18th, but she saw it slide wide to finish one back at 17-under, but Lee6 battled back from her early horror show with four birdies on the back nine, including at the 18th, to also finish 18-under and take it to extras.
The pair went back up 18 and, after Lee hit her second shot to six feet to put the pressure on, Lee6 put her second shot in the water to hand the Australian her maiden Major title.