Leona Maguire didn’t burn up the Kasumigaseki Country Club as she had the Evian Resort Golf Club when shooting a 61 in her final round of the Evian Championship under two weeks ago, but she declared herself happy enough with the level-par 71.
The Cavan pro never quite got the hang of her irons through her 18 holes but she made some pars when she absolutely needed to, the 18th included, and kept herself in the reckoning on a day when the early clubhouse lead was five-under.
“I stayed patient and it was nice to put up a birdie on 17 and par on 18,” she said.
The conditions, boiling hot for the men a few days ago, seemed to inch up a couple of degrees. Add in the intense humidity and it made for a baking hot environment, even for players accustomed to playing in intense conditions around the world.
One of Maguire’s playing partners, Thailand's Bianca Pagdanganan, took to wearing an ice pack on her head in between strokes. Many of the local volunteers did likewise whenever and wherever possible as the mercury touched 35 degrees celsius.
Olympic organisers have since warned that the tournament may be reduced to a 54-hole affair amid fears over incoming inclement weather on Saturday through Sunday. A decision will be reached after tomorrow's second round.
There will also be additional heat mitigation measures from tomorrow, with umbrellas available on the 1st tee to all players and caddies, roving carts with ice and cooling towels, and volunteers with umbrellas on each tee.
Maguire finished in a tie for 23rd after a round containing three birdies and three bogeys and mindful that this is a tournament which will call for a huge amount of resolve and concentration as the thermometer bubbles.
“I mean, this is hot. It’s hot for everybody. Teeing off at 7.50 this morning it was hot. I did a lot of work with my team back home preparing for this. We knew it was going to be hot.
“It’s just a case of doing everything you can to keep cool. Whatever it takes to keep going, fluids, shade, ice. This is a marathon, it isn’t a sprint, so making sure the energy levels keep up.”
Maguire is in a better position to do something here than in 2016 when she finished just outside the top 20 as an amateur although the 60-player field here is considerably stronger in relative terms than that of the men’s.
“I’m probably less in awe of everybody here and focusing in on myself a bit more,” she said of her second Olympic experience. “These are the girls I am playing with week in week out, as opposed to Rio when they were the girls I watched on TV week in and week out.
“So it has a bit of a different feel. At the same time, they are just as good golfers as they were the last time, if not more. I would say the field is a lot stronger here than it was in Rio.”
Maguire and her Irish teammate Stephanie Meadow – who picked up two late birdies to finish with a one-over 72 for a tie for 36th – were both on course last weekend and took in some of Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry’s third rounds. For Maguire, it was the first time to see the former live.
There was also time for a brief chat on the day.
“We just generally chatted. He said well done for my 61 at the Evian and we were just chatting to him before their day. I didn’t want to get into his bubble too much and he had a round of golf to play.
“The lads were very nice and I know they both would have loved to bring home medals and that was the consensus from them, encouraging myself and Stephanie to go one better than he did,” she added.
For all the golfers, male and female, this Olympic Games offers a rare opportunity to plug into something bigger than themselves and Maguire and Meadow have made the most of it by bunking in the Village since arriving last Friday.
“It’s good. It’s about an hour away but it is nice to be a part of that team environment, going to dinner with people, and cheering people on. I saw Aidan Walsh coming back with his bronze medal last night, which was cool to see, everyone cheering him on.
“There’s a good buzz, like there was in Rio. That was one of the things that struck me in Rio: there was a great camaraderie in the Irish team. It’s just a shame we can’t go to any of the events this time and cheer people on in person but you get that sense of wanting everyone to do as well as yourself.”