Meadow and Maguire dig deep in the heat of battle; Irish struggle in Madrid
Stephanie Meadow. Picture: @INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Stephanie Meadow. Picture: @INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Stephanie Meadow kept her last gasp bid to save her LPGA card on track by blasting a sensational eight-under 63 to grab the first round lead in Volunteers of America Classic in Dallas.

The Jordanstown star reckons she needs "at least" a top 10 finish to avoid another trip to the Q-Series.

And she got off to the perfect start despite suffering a niggling shoulder injury that forced her to pull put last week in Indiana, firing eight birdies in a brilliant round to lead by two strokes from Amy Olson and Dori Carter in a do-or-die week for her at Old American Golf Club.

“Sticky. I'm pretty hot, but it was a great day,” Meadow said. “I hit the ball really well, putted really nicely, so it's a good start. “

Seeking her first tour victory, the 27-year-old former made five birdies in a row from the second to turn in 30, then came home in 33 thanks to birdies at the 13th, 15th and 16th

“I made kind of three medium-length ones in a row and then like I hit two really good shots in there on the next two holes and made those,” Meadow said of her five-in-a-row run.

“So, a little bit of putting and a little bit of really good ball-striking. But it's been a while since I've put five in a row, which is fun. You don't want to stop after three, you want to keep going.”

Ranked 110th in the LPGA Tour standings with only the top 100 keeping their cards, she knows she will not get into the next four events in the Far East unless she has a big finish this week. In others words, this could be her last event if she doesn’t put in a huge performance.

"I am going to need a really big week," Meadow said before the start. "Probably a top 10 at least or it will be my last event and I will have to go back to the Q-Series."

Last night she added: “It's been a pretty tough year, but I've been playing well the last few months, so I just feel like if I can just have a good week.

Leona Maguire

Leona Maguire

“I have nothing to lose. I'm just going to go out there, make smart choices. I'm not going to be stupid aggressive, but give myself some opportunities. I believe in myself and we'll see what happens.”

While there is a still a long way to go, the importance of her round could be seen in her projection to 48th in the standings.

It’s a far different but no less pressurised week for Leona Maguire, who needs a solid performance in the season-ending Symetra Tour Championship in Florida to win one of 10 LPGA Tour cards.

And she too got off to the perfect start, finishing with an eagle three at Daytona Beach for a three-under 69 that left her tied 27th, just four shots behind Kendra Dalton, Daniela Iacobelli (ranked 16th) and Lauren Wearn at LPGA International’s Jones Course.

Iacobelli won the 2012 Symetra Tour Championship to jump into the Volvik Race for the Card top-10 and earn LPGA Tour membership for the 2013 season. A solo second result this time around along with some help would get the Florida Institute of Technology alumna into the top-10, but a win would ensure her a place among the 2019 Symetra Tour graduating class.

Dalton has already secured Symetra Tour Category A membership for 2020 as she will finish in the top-80 on the Volvik Race for the Card money list.

It is now a matter of chasing the second annual LPGA Q-Series, with Nos. 11-35 automatically qualifying for the event. At $17,806 in total season earnings, Dalton is $17,891 outside of the last spot.

On the PGA Tour, Phil Mickelson fired a six-under 65 to share second with Brian Gay and Sam Ryder in the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, two shots behind Canadian Nick Taylor.

But on the European Tour, Ireland's trio of hopefuls got off to a poor start in the Open de España in Madrid.

Michael Hoey shot a two-over 73, Gavin Moynihan a 74 and the out-of-form Paul Dunne a 75 as Norwegian rookie Kristian Krogh Johannessen shot an eight-under 63 to lead by two shots from Adri Arnaus with Jon Rahm lurking in joint third after a 66.

Dunne, who had 32 putts yesterday. has missed ten cuts this year and his first round scoring average is 72.38 compared to 70.78 last year and 69.85 in 2017.