Leona Maguire shot a 7-under 65 on Thursday at Lake Merced to take the first-round lead in the LPGA MEDIHEAL Championship, the tour’s second straight event on the San Francisco Peninsula.
Lexi Thompson followed her Sunday back-nine meltdown in the U.S. Women’s Open at nearby Olympic Club with a 71, while Michele Wie West rallied for a 73.
Off last week off after failing to qualify for the Women’s Open, Maguire had nine birdies and two bogeys. The 26-year-old former Duke star matched the tournament record in the third playing of the event, missing a chance to break it when she closed with a bogey on the par-5 ninth.
“It’s a tough golf course,” Maguire said. “You really have to hit a lot of fairways, a lot of greens. I’ve been playing nice as of late. Things just haven’t been quite clicking, and they clicked nicely this morning.”
Jasmine Suwannapura of Thailand shot a 66, birdieing the par-5 18th late in the afternoon to pull within one.
Albane Valenzuela, the former Stanford player from Switzerland, was another stroke back with Alison Lee. Former Cardinal teammate Emily Wang caddied for Valenzuela.
“She just graduated yesterday from her master’s degree in international policy and she’s a Rhodes scholar,” Valenzuela said. “So, she is probably, have to say, the smartest caddie of the week because she outsmarts everyone.”
Thompson offset bogeys on Nos. 2 and 3 with an eagle on the par-5 fifth, birdied the other three par 5s and had two bogeys. On Sunday at Olympic, she blew a five-stroke lead, playing the final seven holes in 5 over to finish a stroke out of a playoff that Yuka Saso won.
Wie West was 4 over with four holes left, then eagled the par-5 15th and birdied the par-4 16th. She has yet to make a cut in her four starts since returning from having her first child, shooting 74-80 last week at Olympic.
Hall of Famer Inbee Park was four strokes back at 69 with Jennifer Kupcho, Da Yeon Lee, Mariajo Uribe, Jane Park and Lauren Kim.
“It’s a little bit different atmosphere to this week,” said Inbee Park, coming off a seventh-place tie at Olympic. “It just makes me relax a little bit more after last week.”
Maguire played alongside the tournament’s two past champions, Sei Young Kim (2018) and Florida neighbor Lydia Ko (2019). Ko had five birdies and five bogeys in a 72, while Kim had four birdies and five bogeys in a 73.
“It was a lot of fun to play with Lydia,” Maguire said. “We played a lot together over the last few months at Lake Nona and she’s a great player. Obviously, Sei Young as well and they know what they’re doing around here, they have had some good success, so tried to learn a little bit from them.”
Maguire birdied four of the first six holes, dropped a shot on the par-4 16th, then had three straight birdies. She added two more birdies before making the closing bogey on the course that reminds her of Ireland.
“I suppose the weather is similar to home, even the golf course is similar to home,” Maguire said. “It’s very green and sort of tree lined a little bit like what we get at home. Northern California’s been good to me and I won my first Symetra event not too far from here, so these kind of golf courses suit my eye.”
Stanford’s Rachel Heck, the NCAA player of the year playing on a sponsor exemption, opened with a 76 in the group with Wie West.
Lucy Li, also in the field on a sponsor exemption, had a 71.
Brooke Henderson shot a 77. She birdied two of the first three, then dropped seven strokes with five bogeys and a double bogey.
Saso and Women’s Open playoff loser Nasa Hataoka skipped the event.