MEGHAN MacLaren is looking to build on her recent strong performances in Australia and Jordan as she sets her sights firmly on the Lalla Meryem Cup this week.
A victory in the Moroccan capital of Rabat would see her take the lead in the race to be crowned European No. 1 and leapfrog Charley Hull and Carlota Ciganda into second place on the European Solheim Cup points list, boosting her chances of a debut appearance for Team Europe at Gleneagles in September.
The 24-year-old from Northamptonshire tied for 25th and 30th in the last two editions of the Lalla Meryem Cup respectively and is determined to do better this time round over the newly renovated Blue Course.
Having won the Access Series Order of Merit in 2017, she feels that winning the LET Order of Merit is now a realistic goal arriving at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam in second position on the money list after her victory in the Women’s New South Wales Open and runner-up finish in the Jordan Mixed Open.
Meghan said: “I’ll always be aiming for the top. Everything I do is about being the best I can be, and I think I get my best results when I’m completely focused on that.
“I had that approach in 2017 and it’s something I wanted to go back to coming into this year, without getting distracted by outcome goals or trying too hard.
“As long as I focus on the little things that make up my game and always recognise what’s going well and what I can improve, I think I can continue progressing in my own way. I do think consistency is one of the most underrated things in golf and winning Order of Merits is probably the best representation of that.”
The runner-up in the Jordan Mixed Open, where she took on the best of the European Challenge and Seniors tours, added: “I’m really happy with where my game is right now.
“I think the consistency of my scores and results shows that there isn’t too much going wrong, and I feel much better equipped to manage both my swing when I’m competing and also my game on the course even if it doesn’t feel perfect. I’m hitting a lot more greens than I was last year which has been key to bringing my scoring down.
“This will be my third time at this course, so I’ve got a good sense for the things that will be important. It’s a much more strategic course than most, which I really like.
“It’s so important to keep the ball on the fairway, so feeling comfortable with my shot shape off the tee has been a big one. My driving was great in Jordan so if I can keep that going it’ll be a massive help. I’ve done quite a bit of practice with my pitching as well because you have wedge in your hands quite a bit round here.”
MacLaren is expecting a big challenge from some of the other players in the field, such as the 2018 and 2016 champions, Jenny Haglund and Nuria Iturrios, as well as recent tournament winners Marianne Skarpnord and Diksha Dagar.
The Lalla Meryem Cup and the Hassan II Golf Trophy, a men’s European Tour event, are co-located at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam and the two tournaments are being played over the Blue and Red Courses respectively for the fourth consecutive year, which means the players share a lounge and practise facilities.
MacLaren said: “It’s a really cool experience. Even in the few years I’ve played this event, it’s grown and strengthened massively – they’ve really put a lot of thought and investment into the facilities and tournament as a whole – which is reflected in the players that turn up.
“Anytime the men and women are in the same environment it creates a different kind of buzz for the players, because I think there’s a lot of mutual respect and also enjoyment that we’re all connected by creating a living through the game of golf. It’s definitely one to which we all look forward.
“It’s another great platform for the game of golf as a whole, I think. The more opportunities there are for women’s golf to raise its profile, the more I think investment and interest in it will grow, as people begin to see the skill and character on display every week.
“The Jordan Mixed Open was obviously different in its innovation – the first time men and women have competed for the same tournament in the professional game is bound to draw interest, and I think the success of that event will encourage more events like it.
“I’ll be honest, 72-hole strokeplay events will always be my favourite! I think they are the best reflection of what golf is all about: the skill, patience and grit required to come out on top is such a huge demand, and an addictive one.
“But I would like to see more events that bring men and women together, because I think it’s incredibly engaging to the wider golfing public.
“The Jordan event showed that coming down the stretch it doesn’t matter what the person looks like, at the end of the day, it’s one person’s golf against another person’s golf. Golf as a sport is so unique in that sense, so I’d love to see it taken advantage of more.”
And she knows that more performances like her second win in Australia, and competing against the men, will do her Solheim Cup ambitions no harm.
Her performance earlier this month caught the eye of European captain, Catriona Matthew, who sent her a text message after the final round in Jordan.
Meghan, who has had three three top 10s in six starts this season, revealed recently: “Just the fact I got a text from her is pretty inspiring really. It’s obviously nice to know I’m on the radar and it will only make me work harder over the next few months.”