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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

France’s Boutier grabs lead; Saso 6 shots back

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Los Angeles—France’s Celine Boutier posted an eagle and six birdies in a seven-under par 65 on Saturday to take a one-stroke lead in the US LPGA Drive On Championship at Superstition Mountain, Arizona.

Boutier had a 16-under par total of 200 and was a shot clear of South Korean Ryu Hae-ran, American Alison Lee and Thailand’s Moriya Jutanugarn.

Former Women’s Open winner Yuka Saso, now representing Japan after spending her amateur years playing for the Philippines, is tied for 31st place with seven others after a two-under 70 in the third round for a 206, only six shots off the pace.

Yuka Saso of Japan walks on on the third green during the third round of the LPGA Drive On Championship at Superstition Mountain Golf and Country Club in Apache Junction, Arizona. AFP

Moriya was 17-under with two holes to play but closed with back-to-back bogeys to slip into the group sharing second — one stroke clear of her sister Ariya Jutanugarn and Norwegian rookie Celine Borge.

On another day of ideal conditions and low scores, Boutier got things going with an eagle at the second hole, reaching the green at the par-five in two.

“Had a solid drive, said the French player, a two-time winner on the LPGA tour and a three-time winner on the Ladies European Tour.

“I was kind of all the way at the front of the green and the pin is kind of back. Just made a solid putt and happened to go in, so it was a pretty nice way to start the round.”

She’d add birdies at the sixth and seventh before a bogey at the eighth. Four birdies coming in included one from a bunker to cap her round at the par-five 18th.

“I feel like I had a lot of birdie opportunities today,” said Boutier. “I didn’t even make all of them, but I feel like because I was playing really steady and focusing on hitting good shots and having the birdie chances I, feel like I made a few.”

With an abundance of low scores and the 18th offering a prime birdie chance it was an especially disappointing finish for Moriya, who started the day in a three-way tie for the lead.

She had shaken off an opening bogey with six birdies, but couldn’t keep up the pace and settled for a 69. She will now be chasing on Sunday as she seeks a third LPGA title, and her first since 2021.

Ryu, 22 and ranked 53rd in the world, put herself in contention for a first LPGA victory with an eight-under 64 while Lee carded a 67.

Ariya and Borge were among the three players to shoot nine-under par 63s.

Former world number one Ariya, whose 12 LPGA titles include two majors, had nine birdies without a bogey.

She reeled off five birdies in a row from the sixth through the 10th and closed her round with three straight birdies at 16, 17 and 18.

She said she could have scored even lower but missed some short birdie putts.

“Just misread it,” said Ariya, adding that overall her putting was “pretty good” after struggles on the greens in recent weeks.

Borge’s nine-under effort included four birdies to open her round and a birdie-eagle finish.

South Korean Amy Yang also carded a 63 to head a big group on 203 that also included world number three Ko Jin-young of South Korea and overnight co-leaders Jenny Shin and Maddie Szeryk.

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