No matter where you looked, an Irish golfer was contending or setting down a marker. Rory McIlroy, the world number one, in the desert. Séamus Power, the top of the FedEx Cup standings on the PGA Tour, in Georgia. And Leona Maguire in the wind and the rain in Florida. A Sunday of Sundays.
And, although the $2 million pay-day, the largest ever in women’s golf, evaded the clutches of Maguire in the season-ending CME Globe LPGA Tour Championship, with New Zealand’s Lydia Ko, the world number one, getting her named scrawled on to the winner’s cheque, the 27-year-old Co Cavan player completed her work stateside with an impressive runner-up finish to Ko at the Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, Florida.
For Maguire, second place in the megabucks end-of-season finale to the LPGA Tour earned her a career-high pay-day of $550,000 to round off her season’s play in the United States. In a year where she followed up her Solheim Cup heroics of 2021 with a breakthrough win in the Drive On Championship last February, Maguire’s runner-up finish bookended a wonderful campaign.
Having started the final round in a share of the lead with Ko, Maguire couldn’t repeat the magnificent 63 of Saturday’s third round which had seen her charge up the leaderboard to accompany the Kiwi. In the end, a finishing 72 for 15-under-par 273 left Maguire two shots adrift of Ko who claimed the LPGA Tour Championship for a third time and also took the Rolex Player of the Year honours for a second time.
“This year has been an incredible year. I really could never ask for more, to win so early in the season and then to win in Korea and then win the last event of the year. I couldn’t have drawn it up any better,” said Ko of her year to remember.
Maguire came up just short – a knocked down fairway wood into the hazard on the par-five 14th perhaps providing the kiss of death to her bid to take down Ko – but the runners-up finish was still a magnificent achievement in her upward trajectory in the sport.
For a time on Sunday, Power – winner of the Bermuda Championship last month – looked set to claim another success as he moved into a share of the lead but ultimately he had to settle for tied-fifth in the RSM Classic at Sea Island in Georgia where Canadian Adam Svensson finished with a 64 for 19-under-par 263 to lift his first PGA Tour win.
Power’s run of 1st-3rd-5th in his last three tournaments in this early season part of the wraparound 2022/23 season on the PGA Tour left him in number one position on the FedEx Cup standings as the tour heads into its short winter break, with the Waterford resuming competitive action in January’s Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii.
“I’m looking forward to a break,” confessed Power, “to some time off and just getting away from it. I did that after the [FedEx Cup] playoffs this year and I really felt rejuvenated and you just find that energy and spring in your step again. I’m looking forward to that again and getting started in early January,” said Power.
As for McIlroy, the world number one? A fourth placed finish in the DP World Tour Championship – where Jon Rahm claimed the title – was sufficient for the Co Down man to win a fourth career Harry Vardon Trophy for topping the European Tour order of merit. In doing so, he completed the double of winning the points titles on the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour in the same year.
“It’s been a fantastic year both sides of the pond,” said McIlroy. “Whenever the PGA Tour, the FedExCup, was over and done with mid-August, I turned my attention to try and win [the DP World Tour order of merit], and played quite a bit, played Wentworth and Italy and the Dunhill and now here [in Dubai], and it was nice to achieve that objective. It’s a great way to end the year, and it’s been busy for a lot of reasons, and I’m looking forward to some down time.”