Irish women burn it up in Rio; Leona 65, Stephanie 66
Leona Maguire speaks to RTE's Gary Moran after her second round 65

Leona Maguire speaks to RTE's Gary Moran after her second round 65

Leona Maguire and Stephanie Meadow showed their true colours and scorched up the leaderboard in the Olympic Women's golf tournament.

Leona shots a six-under  65 her caddie and twin sister Lisa felt could have been 10 under so well did she play from tee to green.

The 21-year-old from Ballydonnell had opened with a three-over 74 but her seven birdie round catapulted her up to 22nd pace on three under par, seven strokes behind Inbee Park and as a result she will tee it up with Lydia Ko, the 19 year old Kiwi who become the youngest world No 1 and is already a two time major winner.

"Lisa said it easily could have been (10-under)," Maguire told RTÉ Sport. "There'll always be those putts here and there but I'm pleased with that; it leaves me in good shape going into the last two rounds and hopefully I can do it again.

"I left a few out there coming in; on 15, 16, 17 I missed a few short ones, but I am very happy with that.

"That was the plan today, to try and go and get as many birdies as possible, shoot a low one and get myself back into it and that's what I've done."

Winning a medal would be a huge achievement but by simply racing up the leaderboard, Leona showed she's close to the standard she needs to get through the LPGA Q-School in October and November and earn her place on tour.

"To get back into red numbers was big today," she added. "To give myself somewhat of a chance. I made up a bit of ground today and hopefully I'll keep clawing my way up.

"Every putt you can hole is going to make a big difference. It's probably only going to come down to a shot or two in the end."

She followed her opening birdie with seven pars before closing out the front nine with another birdie to get back to one over for the tournament.

She then improved by three shots on her opening round when erased the memory of a doubley bogey seven wth a birdie at the par-five 10th before adding  three more at the 11th, 13th and 14th holes.

She suffered her only dropped shot of the day at the 15th but picked up her seventh and final birdie at the par-five 18th

Meadow’s 66 was the fifth best round of the day and it will do wonders for her confidence as she bids to get her game back to where it was when she turned professional two years ago.

She cruised through the front nine three under par with birdies at the first, fourth and fifth to turn in 32, dropped her only shot at the par-four 11th, but birdied the 15th, 16th and 17th to jump up 13 places to tied 38th on one over.

World No 5 Inbee Park shot a second successive 66 to lead Stacy Lewis by one shot on 10 after Lewis made 11 birdied in a course record 63.

Charley Hull (66) and Canada’s Brooke Henderson (64), who is looked after by Canadian coach and Cavan man Tristan Mullally, share third place on eight under.

“I guess I have a course record here, and it’s great to put my name on that, and being near the top of the leaderboard at the Olympics,” said Lewis. “It's something that, I think, every kid is going to dream of doing.”

She added: “It's been such a cool week so far, and the highlight for me was just getting to see the guys up there on the podium on 18 on Sunday getting their medals and just thinking about how cool that would be to be in their shoes and be doing that on Saturday.  It's definitely a motivating factor but I've had a great week and we're enjoying it so far.”

Park, the seven-time major winner, admitted that she arrived in Rio more in hope than expectation after a lengthy lay-off due to the on-going thumb injury. However, the Korean has plotted a steady course for two days and said: “I was able to convert the birdies today.  I missed a couple of tee shots, so I was in the sand area, but I was able to convert them into birdies. That's really the key for today's round.”

The leaderboard reflects the global nature of the competition, with a league of nations contending inside the top ten of an exciting women’s event. Hard on the heels of Park and Lewis are Canadian Brooke Henderson and Charley Hull, bidding to follow the gold medal performance of her fellow Briton, Justin Rose, last Sunday. Henderson also went low with a 64, while Hull tagged a 66 onto her initial 68 for an eight-under-par total of 134.

Right behind the leaders are three players at seven under par, Marianne Skarpnord of Norway, Denmark’s Nicole Broch Larsen and Candie Kung of Chinese Taipei while the youngest player in the field, 18-year-old Aditi Ashok, carries the hopes of India at six-under-par.

Power reflects on amazing Rio Olympics experience

West Waterford's Seamus Power is back in the US on the Tour where he is tied for seventh in the News Sentinel Open presented by Pilot after a five under par 66.

And he sounded thrilled to have represented Ireland in Rio, where he tied for 15th behind Justin Rose and got to know Pádraig Harrington and Paul McGinley.

Quotes of the Day – Round 2

Inbee Park 132 (66, 66)

“I think first coming here, I didn't really know whether I was going to play this week or not due to the injury.  Obviously didn't expect much of a result.  It was more of whether I can play or not.  A good result is a great gift.”

Stacy Lewis 133 (70, 63)

“I was excited from the get‑go with the announcement of the Olympics.  There are probably a lot of reasons why we shouldn't have come and shouldn't have done this, whether it was Zika or other issues. I just did my homework and nobody gave me a good reason why I shouldn't come.  You'd have to ‑ I mean, there'd have to be something seriously wrong with me to not come play in the Olympics.  This has been so cool.  Just a different feel about it.”

Brooke Henderson (134) 70, 64

I feel Britt (sister and caddie) and I came up with a really good strategy for this course over the last week or so, along with Team Canada.  I think so far, it's been pretty good.  But like I say, there's still lots of golf left and hopefully I'll just continue to play smart but take advantage when I can.

Charley Hull 134 (68, 66)

“I don't really look at what I do.  I just kind of get off the golf course and go to the gym.  I don't really analyse where I am.  I just kind of think, oh, yeah, I played decent, another round tomorrow.”

Marianne Skarpnord, 135 (69, 66)

"When I first came there (Team Norway house), I was thinking, God, this is like going to camp or something, border school or whatever.  The food isn't great.  The beds aren't great.  The apartment isn't great.  But the atmosphere and the experience is better and a lot more than I would ever think that it would be.  I'm loving it.  I think it's really cool.”

Nicole Broch Larsen 135 (67, 68)

“It's cool (Olympic Village).  It's nice to be surrounded by athletes.  I think we have a good atmosphere in the Danish, yeah, all the Danish people together.  Everybody is cheering for each other.  It's really cool getting back there yesterday and a lot of people is like, good luck, and well played.  It's just nice to get their support, as well.”

Aditi Ashok 136 (68, 68)

“I think golf every day is different.  You never hit the same shot twice.  So every day is a new experience, and you can't really come with any expectations.  The game is bigger than all of us, so that's what I like about it.  Every day, you have a new experience.”

Gerina Piller 136 (69, 67)

“Yeah, that would be pretty cool to have a (USA) podium sweep.  It's definitely been talked about amongst us.  But again, there's a lot of golf to be played and you can't put the cart before the horse.  For me, I just want to focus on playing consistent golf and hitting good shots and making putts.”

Minjee Lee 136 (69, 67)

“I think when you're on the golf course, you don't really think about it.  But when you're obviously not on the golf course, you're like, oh, you just sort of realize how big of an event it is and not just for yourself, because you're representing your country and for women's golf and all that.  So I think it's pretty cool just to be here.  I think it's amazing.  More amazing as it goes.”

Lydia Ko 139 (69, 70)

“I think she (Charley Hull) realises how big of a deal it is, and especially with Justin Rose winning the gold medal, I know she would love to putt a contribution to GB. I think it’s just her personality that she's just cool, outgoing, trying to play some great golf, and no matter what tournament that you're playing, I think that's a confidence factor; that either you're in perfect positions or not, you're still going out there focusing on that shot in front of me and not worrying about everything that's gone around you.”

T22nd – 139 (74, 65) Leona Maguire
T38th – 143 (77, 66) Stephanie Meadow

R3 Tee Times – 19th August (Irish time) 
12:41 - Stephanie Meadow, Ashleigh Simon, Gwladys Nocera
13:36 - Lydia Ko, Leona Maguire, Lexi Thompson