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 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.
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 2nd 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 all the way at the front of the green and the pin is at the 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 6th and 7th before a bogey at the 8th. Four birdies coming in included one from a bunker to cap her round at the par-five 18th.
“I had a lot of birdie opportunities today,” said Boutier. “I didn’t even make all of them, but because I was playing really steady and focusing on hitting good shots and having the birdie chances, 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 Tour title, and her first since 2021.
Ryu, 22 and ranked 53rd in the world, put herself in contention for a first LPGA Tour 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 No 1 Ariya, whose 12 LPGA Tour titles include two Majors, had nine birdies without a bogey.
She reeled off five birdies in a row from the 6th 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 13 under that also included world No 3 Ko Jin-young of South Korea and overnight co-leaders Jenny Shin and Maddie Szeryk.
South Africa’s Paula Reto is on four under (T72) after a third-round 73. Countrywoman Ashleigh Buhai failed to make the weekend cut.
© Agence France-Presse