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Maguire leads quartet into LPGA Match Play semis at Shadow Creek

Leona Maguire earned her reputation as a stellar match play performer with her starring role in Europe’s 2021 Solheim Cup victory.

She’s only adding to her mystique at the Bank of Hope LPGA Match Play.

Maguire remained perfect for the week, rolling past Perrine Delacour 5 and 3 in the round of 16, then topping Lindsey Weaver-Wright 3 and 2 in the afternoon Saturday to join Pajaree Anannarukarn, Linn Grant and Ayaka Furue in Sunday’s semifinals at Shadow Creek, a course that is making life difficult for the world’s best women golfers.

“I played some really solid golf today. A little scrappy maybe this afternoon, but knew it was going to be a battle out there and it was just a case of staying patient,” said Maguire, who went down early to Weaver-Wright before taking control in the middle of the match.

The comeback began on the par-5 fourth, where a birdie got her to 1-down. After matching pars with Weaver-Wright on the fifth hole, Maguire then ran off four consecutive wins, highlighted by a chip-in eagle on the par-5 seventh to put an exclamation point on her charge.

“The way that pin was today and the way the greens were, you couldn’t actually stop it at that pin in two, so it was a case of trying to see where we could leave it in a good spot to get up and down,” she said. “Yeah, bonus that it went in.”

Next, Maguire will face Furue, who is developing a match play reputation of her own. This is the second consecutive year she’ll play the final day at Shadow Creek after losing in the 2022 final to Eun-Hee Ji. Furue reached the semifinals with a 2-and-1 win over Celine Boutier, who led the majority of the afternoon.

“It’s mentally and physically tough to have two rounds in just one day,” said Furue, who is hoping to call on her experience from last year Sunday. “I know Leona is a really good player, so I’ll just focus and concentrate on my play.”

The other semifinal will feature Grant and Anannarukarn, a pair of 23-year-olds who took different routes to the semis. Grant built an early lead with birdies on all three par-5s on the front nine, then never let Albane Valenzuela get close in a 3-and-1 win. Anannarukarn had to rally on the back nine to beat Carlota Ciganda 3 and 2.

Ciganda had all the momentum after holing out from the bunker for eagle on No. 9, then nearly holing out from the fairway on No. 11 to take the lead. But Anannarukarn buckled down and won the next four holes to take out the Solheim Cup veteran.

“I wasn’t really playing well on the back nine the first three rounds to be honest,” said Anannarukarn, who survived a playoff late Friday to get out of her pod and earn a spot on the weekend. “I just really set my goal trying to make a lot of pars on the back nine, and that’s good enough for me.”

All four semifinalists stressed that plenty of rest Saturday night and a lot of patience Sunday will be the key to surviving another 36-hole day. It also meant a very tame birthday celebration for Furue on Saturday night who, like Grant and Anannarukarn, turned 23.

“Hopefully there will be strawberries in the refrigerator tonight, so I’ll get them,” she said.

Greg Robertson covers golf for the Review-Journal. Reach him at grobertson@reviewjournal.com.

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