Leona Maguire has shot at CME to wrap up illustrious rookie year

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NAPLES, Fla. – When it comes to goals, Leona Maguire has achieved almost all of them this season.

Finish in the top 40 in points and get back to the CME Group Tour Championship? Check. She posted 10 top-9 finishes, including two runners-up, and entered this week’s season-ending event at No. 17 in points.

Make the Solheim Cup team? Check. But she didn’t just earn a spot as a rookie, she went 5-0.

Qualify for all the majors? Well, almost. She narrowly missed getting into the U.S. Women’s Open this summer, but she’s already locked up her spot for next year’s championship at Pine Needles.

“It's as good a rookie year as I think I could have expected,” Maguire said. “It's actually gone better than I expected. … Obviously, nice to get a win, but I've pretty much done everything but that.”

There’s still time, though.

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

Maguire, who starred at Duke by capturing two Annika Awards and four first-team All-America honors, took two years to earn her graduation from the Symetra Tour. After finishing No. 59 in CME points last season, she was extended another rookie season as the LPGA carried over status because of the pandemic – and she took advantage, fueled by a move to graphite iron shafts that reignited her iron game.

“All parts of my game have gotten that bit better and feel a bit more comfortable every week,” she said. “Sort of playing with the best players in the world I think raises your game without you even realizing it.”

Highlights: CME Group Tour Championship, Round 3

While Maguire was edged out by major winner Patty Tavatanakit for Louise Suggs Rookie of the Year honors, she has the best chance of the rookies to claim the $1.5 million first-place prize on Sunday at Tiburon Golf Club. She fired a 6-under 66 on a windy Saturday to enter the final round at 12 under, just two shots back as she eyes her maiden LPGA win.

“There are a lot of great golfers ahead of me on the leaderboard and around me, so it's going to take another low one,” said Maguire, who is looking up at five co-leaders, including Nelly Korda and Jin Young Ko. “At the same time, it's a golf course you have to stay really patient on, take your chances when you get them, and be smart about it. That's the kind of golf I like, so excited for another day.”

Asked where she stacks up against the game’s best, the former top-ranked amateur in the world was modest: “I mean, I haven't as much on my resume as a lot of them, so I'm getting there,” she said. “I'm working my way up.”

Her goals for next season certainly should get a little more aggressive.