Celine Boutier’s playoff win at the LPGA Drive On doubles as a milestone moment for French golf
Celine Boutier birdied the 18th hole in regulation and a playoff to claim the LPGA Drive On Championship title and become the all-time leading tour winner from France.
It took a playoff for Celine Boutier and Georgia Hall to settle the LPGA Drive On Championship. And after both finished at 20 under at the par-72 Superstition Mountain Golf & Country Club outside Phoenix, Boutier grabbed the title with a birdie on the first extra hole. In the process, the 29-year-old passed a notable milestone, becoming the winningest Frenchwoman ever.
“I definitely feel like I was trying not to think about it just because it's so crazy to think that I'm making history in any way,” said Boutier after claiming tour title No. 3, passing Patricia Meunier-Lebouc and Anne-Marie Palli.
There were other memorable parts to Boutier’s victory. This week marked the first time she closed out a 54-hole lead in her career. And her consistency around the greens proved pivotal as she got up and down eight of nine times Sunday in posting a closing four-under 68, including on four consecutive holes to close out her first victory since the 2021 Shoprite LPGA Classic.
As it turned out, Palli was at Superstition Mountain on Sunday to watch the final round. The 67-year-old reflected on how Boutier's win may impact French golf's future.
"I think it's wonderful what [she’s] doing. And then we have Pauline [Roussin Bouchard] as well, a young 22-year-old that is going to have a phenomenal career as well," Palli said, "All that, as you can imagine, it's very inspiring for young French player to play.”
Usually, Boutier and Hall are lined up together in match play competition. The tandem has been a force for Team Europe at the last two Solheim Cups, earning a combined 3-0-1 record in team matches. Having to go against her Solheim teammate made the victory bittersweet.
“To be honest, it was not enjoyable. I feel like I'm not confrontational by any means, and I really like Georgia,” Boutier said, “We were partners [at the Solheim] so I feel like it was definitely a little bit sad that I had to go against her. Nut she had a great round today and it was great that she had such a nice round and be able to go on to the playoff.”
Hall sprinted down the back nine with a closing 30 to shoot a seven-under 65. She went birdie-birdie-eagle-birdie from the 11th through the 14th hole to propel up the leaderboard. Hall moved to 1-1 in career playoffs, having won the 2020 Cambia Portland Classic against Ashleigh Buhai in extra holes.
“Obviously fantastic to get to the position I was in,” Hall said, “I knew I had to shoot low today, and obviously gutted about the playoff.”
Ayaka Furue teed off almost two hours before the final pairing and finished with a clubhouse lead of 19 under after posting a bogey-free 65. However, she narrowly missed another opportunity to go head-to-head with Boutier, as the 2022 rookie beat the Frenchwoman for her first LPGA career victory last July at the Trust Golf Women’s Scottish Open. Instead, she earned her second consecutive third-place finish, ther other comimg at the HSBC Women's World Championship at the start of March.
Jin Young Ko, No. 3 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, had an opportunity to return to No. 1 with a victory despite being ill. On Friday, the South Korean explained she lost her voice and couldn’t communicate well with her caddie David Brooker.
In spite of Ko’s illness, the 27-year-old moved into a share of the lead at 17 under on the back nine, but that’s where the 13-time LPGA winner finished after posting a closing four-under par 68, good for T-5. Ko last was the No. 1 player in the world rankings this past October.
Boutier’s victory adds to the lore of past LPGA champions at Superstition Mountain. When the tour was last at the course for the Safeway International from 2004-2008, Lorena Ochoa, Annika Sorenstam and Juli Inkster were three of the victors over five years. Now, Boutier stands alongside some of the tour's all-time greats.