The Pelican Women’s Championship presented by Konica Minolta and Raymond James marks the 13th time in 18 stroke-play events this season that Leona Maguire has opened with an under-par round. Her bogey-free, 8-under 62 performance on Thursday at Pelican Golf Club in Belleair, Fla., was the second-lowest score of her career, bested only by the 10-under 61 in the final round of the 2021 Amundi Evian Championship, and set the tournament scoring record.
“It was pretty stress-free. I played the par-3s really well and birdied all of them, which helped,” said Maguire, who hit all 14 fairways. “It was just really, really solid. Hit a lot of greens, gave myself a lot of chances and rolled some nice putts.”
It’s the first time that Maguire’s swing coach, Shane O’Grady, has joined her at a tournament since the 2019 IOA Golf Classic on the Epson Tour. That same year, Maguire won twice to secure her spot as a Epson Tour graduate, earning LPGA Tour membership for the 2020 campaign. The work the duo put in leading up to the Pelican Women’s Championship is paying early dividends.
“Actually put a 6-hybrid in the bag this week, nearly had a hole in one on No. 3 with it today,” Maguire said. “Made a little adjustment to my 9-wood, too, and made a birdie with that on 15, so I knew I wasn't far away. Shane hasn't been out in two years, so it's been nice having him here. It's all clicking nicely.”
Maguire’s playing partners Sei Young Kim (64) and Lexi Thompson (65) also had stout showings. Kim sits in solo second, two shots back of Maguire, while Thompson leads a pack of seven players tied for third at 5-under.
“Well, no bogeys today, so I got a little bit of confidence from the no mistakes,” said Kim, the defending champion of the Pelican Women’s Championship. “Hopefully I can keep it going through final round.”
For Thompson, confidence in her flatstick was evident.
“I definitely felt good with my putter. I was playing aggressive and going for the few pins that I could,” Thompson said after a bogey-free round. “There are a few longer holes, but at the same time there are a lot of shorter holes as well, so taking advantage of those and getting pars on the harder ones is key.”
Bradenton native and Rolex Rankings No. 1 Nelly Korda is also among the contingent at -5. She recorded six birdies Thursday in her first competitive round at Pelican Golf Club.
“I've actually played this golf course before. It's just new and was a lot firmer. The greens are definitely more receptive now. All in all, it’s a solid golf course,” said Korda, a three-time winner in 2021. “Greens are the defense of this place and they're very tricky. The wind was definitely a factor today, here and there. I made key putts when I needed to and struck it quite well.”
Monday qualifier Lauren Coughlin used seven birdies and an eagle to shoot 5-under in the first round, while Tampa resident Brittany Altomare sits in a tie for 14th at -3 and St. Petersburg native Brittany Lincicome went 2-under for a share of 23rd after 18 holes. A total of 50 players shot under par, compared to 21 players a year ago.