Boutier, 29, nets 3rd LPGA victory with playoff win

GOLD CANYON, Ariz. — Celine Boutier of France beat Georgia Hall of England with a birdie on the first playoff hole Sunday to win the LPGA Drive on Championship.

Boutier forced a playoff by making a testy birdie putt at the par-5 18th to close out a 4-under 68, matching Hall (65) at 20-under 268 in the LPGA’s first full-field event of the season.

Playing the 18th hole again, neither golfer found the green with her second shot of the playoff. Boutier, chipping from nearly the same spot as she did in regulation short and right of the green, pitched to about 4 feet. Meanwhile, Hall hit her second shot into a greenside bunker, blasted beyond the hole and failed to convert her birdie effort. That set the stage for Boutier’s winning birdie putt.

Boutier had mixed feelings about squaring off in a playoff against — and beating — Hall, a former Solheim Cup teammate.

“I was honestly not looking forward to it,” Boutier said. “It’s a bittersweet feeling because you obviously want to win, but at the same time I really think she’s an amazing player. … She is a really good friend of mine. So I feel like it’s not always easy, but also I’m a little bit competitive, so I feel like I definitely want to win as well. But it’s not the greatest feeling.”

With the victory, the 29-year-old Boutier claimed her third LPGA victory and became the winningest French player on tour, moving past Patricia Meunier-Lebouc and Anne-Marie Palli. She had previously won the 2019 ISPS Handa Vic Open and 2021 ShopRite Classic.

Boutier posted two early birdies at Nos. 2 and 3 and gave a stroke back with bogey at the sixth. On the back nine, she made a move with birdies at 11 and 13, and none more important than the clutch birdie putt at the 18th, her 72nd hole.

“I was a little bit nervous, but not as much as I expected or I thought I was going to be,” she said. “I feel like I was just really focused. I had a really tough chip from the right with a break from right to left, so I was just trying to get as close as I could. Then the 5- or 6-footer was definitely a little bit of pressure.”

After three birdie-filled rounds at Superstition Mountain Golf Club, the final round started with 17 players within three shots of the lead and stayed to form.

Hall made the most of her fourth round, posting one of three 7-under par scores, including going 6 under on the back nine to take a clubhouse lead, finishing about an hour ahead of Boutier.

Hall, who was looking for her first win since the 2020 Cambia Portland Classic, which followed a victory at the Women’s British Open in 2018, tried to find some consolation in her near-miss.

“Obviously fantastic to get to the position I was in,” the 26-year-old major winner said. “I knew I had to shoot low today, and obviously gutted about the playoff.”

Japan’s Ayaka Furue closed with a 65 and finished third at 19 under. Na Rin An of South Korea was alone in fourth at 18 under with a closing 67, while American Ally Ewing (67) and South Korea’s Jin Young Ko (68) were another stroke back in fifth.

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