Boutier takes 1st at Superstition Mountain while Jutanugarn struggles

GOLD CANYON, Ariz. – (AP) – Celine Boutier of France had an eagle and six birdies in a round of 7-under 65 and moved to the top of the leaderboard when Moriya Jutanugarn of Thailand hit the track in the third round of Saturday’s LPGA Drive stumbled down to championship.

Boutier, a 29-year-old two-time Tour winner, hit an eagle 3 on the second par 5 hole and added two birdies that offset a bogey on the par 3 eighth hole. She played the back nine in 4-unders for a total of 16-unders and a one-shot lead over three others before going into Sunday’s finals.

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

If the first three rounds of the first full-field event of the tour of the season are any indication, the finale should be a scramble. There are 17 golfers within three shots of the lead after nine players posted rounds of 7 to 9 under par on a birdie-packed Saturday.

Boutier, whose most recent win came at the 2021 Shoprite Classic outside of Atlantic City, New Jersey, reckons she’ll have to cut deep on the final round with the course’s firm fairways and fast greens.

“There’s definitely a lot of opportunities, so I think I have to get a pretty low score to have a chance,” Boutier said.

Jutanugarn (69), American Alison Lee (67) and South Korean rookie Hae Ran Ryu (64) took second place with 15 under.

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Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn and Norway’s rookie Celine Borge are another shot behind after moving up the leaderboard by 63 seconds into the third round.

Two-time major champion Jin Young Ko of South Korea carded a 4-under 68 and finished seventh with 13-under in a 12-way tie.

Moriya Jutanugarn appeared to take control of the tournament midway through her back nine with four birdies between Nos. 11 and 15 before stumbling on the final holes. She bogeyed on the first and, after leading at 17-under with two holes remaining, bogeyed out of a greenside bunker on the par-3 17th and hit her second shot into a lake off to the left the closure bordered hole. She made bogey 6 last but looked ahead.

“As long as I’m still in the race, I’m pretty happy with it,” said Moriya Jutanugarn, the 2013 Rookie of the Year, who has two Tour wins to his credit. “I know it’s not the finish I want, but it’s still there.”

Lee overcame a bogey in third place with six birdies for the remainder of the round to earn her first LPGA win. The 28-year-old made the cut in 22 of her 24 events last season with a T-5 as her best result at the Women’s Scottish Open.

“I definitely have something to do tomorrow,” Lee said. “I know it exactly. … Before the tee shot, I saw Amy Yang undershot 9. I thought, ‘Wow, I’ve got a lot to do today.’

“In that sense, I’m not feeling well because, as I said, I know I’ll have to step on the gas tomorrow.”

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Ryu built momentum on her round, making six birdies and finishing with an eagle-3 on the par-5 18. The first-year Tour player is hoping to draw on some of her past experience in the finals.

“When I played in Korea, I played in the final groups many times, but it was the first time in the LPGA, so I really feel like a rookie rookie,” said the 22-year-old. “I’ll take every single shot carefully tomorrow.”

Second-ranked Nelly Korda, the highest-ranked player in the field while Lydia Ko did not compete, was 10-under after a 70 in the third round. Defending champion Leona Maguire hit a 69 and was 9-under.


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