Céline Boutier heats up and opens a 4-stroke lead after 65 at Tiburon

NAPLES, Fla .– What seemed like a wide open race for the richest prize in women’s golf is now in the hands of Celine Boutier, who birdied seven in the last 10 holes for a 7-under-65 and a four- shot in the lead on Friday in the CME Group Tour championship.

For much of the blown away second round, a dozen players were hit apart at Tiburon Golf Club. This included Nelly Korda and Jin Young Ko, four-time winners this year in a battle for LPGA Player of the Year.

Over the past two hours, Boutier has left them all in his wake in pursuit of the $ 1.5 million prize.

Among her seven birdies, the 28-year-old Frenchwoman arrived from the green on the 13th, pushed her approach 4 feet behind the hole on the 15th, reached the middle of the green on par-5 on the 17th in two for an easy birdie and closed with a 7 foot birdie putt.

She was 14 and under 130, four ahead of Gaby Lopez of Mexico (68), championship winner Evian Minjee Lee of Australia (68) and Mina Harigae (69).

“I was frustrated with my forehead. I left a few shots there,” Boutier said. “My long game was very solid all day, and I was able to place my shots close, and it was useful in the back.”

Korda, who is 10 points ahead of Ko in the race for player of the year, was in the squad five strokes behind after having to settle for a 69.

The 23-year-old American star was there in the mix until she was suddenly slowed down. She went to get the green on the 14th par 5 and it took off to the right on her, just inside the danger line. Korda still had a swing, but her punch failed to climb the slope and she failed to climb up and down from there to take a bogey.

“I just hit a little heel and it just floated to the right,” Korda said. “It’s usually my miss. The ball is over your feet. I was trying to be a little aggressive with it, and my misses were a little to the left, so I kind of lifted it up and got it. hit to the right. “

Ko had a 67 and was in the group six shots behind. More relevant to Player of the Year, Ko was two strokes away from a chance to finish second, which she needs to do to have a chance to capture Player of the Year for the second time, and even that depends of the way Korda behaves.

Before the weekend of the season finale, they are all chasing Boutier.

Much like how she finished her turn, Boutier is all about the big finish. An ordinary year that has become memorable over the past two months. It all started at the Solheim Cup where a 5 and 4 singles victory over Harigae – with whom she played on Friday – helped Europe win the cup.

“Celine is a great player,” said Harigae. “Honestly, she’s kind of like a complete, complete player – a great hitter, great short play and a really great putter. You know, that equates to 14 cents for two days.”

Boutier returned home after the Solheim Cup and won the French Open, then two weeks later she closed with a 63 to beat Ko and Inbee Park in the ShopRite Classic for her second career LPGA title.

“I feel like my game has been solid, just a little inconsistent with putting. That’s what was costing me. I changed putters in September and since then,” she said, stopping to smile, “It’s gotten better.”

Boutier’s 66 corresponded to the low score of the second round. Danielle Kang also had a 66.

It was a different Tiburon from the day before, when mild rain and hardly any wind led 18 players to post 67 or better. It was more like Florida in the fall, with a constant wind that was relentless and strong enough to make players feel uncomfortable on shots at times.

Lexi Thompson is still a factor, a week after losing a chance to end more than two years without winning by finishing bogey-bogey and losing in the playoffs. She won at Tiburon two years ago and it plays on her strength to master the courses.

Thompson says she works tirelessly on her putting – she chose not to say who helps her with her little game – and left bad memories behind. She had a few tap-in birdies to redeem two bogeys in her round of 69 to reach 8-under 136.

“I’m just going to take the positives from last week and incorporate them into this week. It’s been a week that I’m looking forward to the most of the year,” said Thompson. “Two more days, so I’m going to kiss it all.”

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