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HomeFEATURED WEBSITEFresh off major win, Celine Boutier in front at Women's Scottish Open

Fresh off major win, Celine Boutier in front at Women’s Scottish Open

AYRSHIRE, Scotland — Celine Boutier is riding such a wave of confidence these days, you half expected her to march up the 18th at Dundonald Links whistling a jolly tune of surfing satisfaction by the Beach Boys.

A week on from her maiden major victory in the Evian Championship, the Frenchwoman is on course for a notable double whammy of triumphs as she forged a sturdy advantage on the penultimate day of the Freed Group Women’s Scottish Open.

A composed, classy and clinical performance led to a 6-under 66, a 13-under total and a three-stroke lead over Thailand’s Patty Tavatanakit and Maja Stark of Sweden.

Seven days ago on the shores of Lake Geneva, Boutier led by three after 54-holes and went on to win by six. Here on the Firth of Clyde, her latest three-stroke lead could prompt another procession to a coronation.

There is a lot of golf to be played, of course, but in this particular parish, Boutier, last year’s runner-up, is in her element. This was her seventh consecutive round in the 60s at Dundonald.  Her position of authority at the summit is so fortified, her name on the leaderboard could be shielded by a portcullis.

The home of golf certainly brings out the best in Boutier. Four years ago at Gleneagles, she won four out of four during a thrilling Solheim Cup debut to help Europe claim a famous victory. Here in 2023, individual glory beckons in the game’s cradle.

It was one of those days when all the golfing cogs and pistons were working and finely tuned. “Sometimes you envision shots and they don’t always happen,” said Boutier. “But today, it happened the way I saw it.”

When she did make the odd deviation from the straight and narrow, Boutier took the positives from it. “I made a bogey on the ninth, which actually fired me up,” she added. “It was nice to get some more energy going.”

Boutier had been five shots off the halfway pace set by Japan’s Hinako Shibuno but she chomped into that deficit with gusto. Four birdies on her first seven holes had her bounding along nicely as Shibuno stumbled and stuttered. Stark, the 23-year-old who was leading the chasing pack after 36-holes, would take up the front-running and did briefly move into a two-shot lead before her round unravelled on the run-in.

Shibuno, a wonderful Women’s British Open champion at Woburn back in 2019, endured a trying day, meanwhile, and a double-bogey on the short 15th prompted a pained grimace from the woman known as the Smiling Cinderella. It would get worse for the 24-year-old. A bogey on 17 was followed by a trip into the water on the last and another leaked shot in a 77 left her six shots off the lead.

Those late lapses were pounced on by Boutier, whose poise and purpose was rewarded with a brace of birdies at 17 and 18 as she conjured a telling late thrust. Stark also found the wet stuff on the 18th and dropped a costly shot in a level-par 72.

Stark may have been left scunnered by that sore one, but the six-time Ladies European Tour winner remained determined to make amends on the final day. “I want revenge,” she hissed through clenched teeth as she plotted a closing offensive. “I think it’s just a ‘screw it’ mentality now because it’s the final day and you know where you’re standing. It’s all about getting the win.”

Boutier, meanwhile, will be hoping to stay in the winning habit, but she will also stay in the moment. “I definitely have to keep my expectations in check and not get too far ahead of myself,” she said.

Tavatanakit, a major champion in 2021, is not out of it and she energised her title tilt with a charging 66 that was illuminated by eagles on the third and 14th.

On the home front, Gemma Dryburgh, the Scottish No 1, moved up a couple of gears with a four-under 68 which hoisted her up into the leading 30 on two-under. Four birdies in five holes from the third was an enjoyable flurry for the LPGA winner. “I got on a pretty hot run there and that was fun,” she said after a decent stride up the order.

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