Defending champion Celine Boutier and hometown hero Nelly Korda will both have the Paris Olympics in the back of their minds when the LPGA Drive On Championship tees off on Thursday.
France’s Boutier, whose four LPGA Tour titles last year included her first Major at the Evian Championship, will try to win gold on home soil later this year while Korda hopes to defend her Olympic title in Paris.
“Very looking forward to the Olympics. Paris will be a huge week for me,” Boutier said. “Going back to Evian will also be a challenge in some ways but also very rewarding.
“Having the British Open at St Andrews is always very special as well, so looking forward to that.”
For this week, however, third-ranked Boutier will launch her 2024 season at Bradenton (Florida) Country Club while fourth-ranked Korda enjoys staying at home in quest of her first LPGA Tour win since November 2022.
Boutier (30) won last year’s Drive On title in a playoff over England’s Georgia Hall at Arizona’s Superstition Mountain.
“It definitely feels like a different tournament to me because we never played this course before,” Boutier said. “But it’s always fun to be able to come back to a tournament you won before so I’m very excited to be here.”
Winning the 2023 Drive On launched Boutier on a career-best campaign.
“It just give me a little bit of relief and confidence,” she said. “It had been two years before that week that I hadn’t won, and I came a lot of times in the top 10 and in contention and wasn’t able to do it in 2022.”
This week, Boutier begins the challenge of following up on a four-win season.
“It’s definitely a bit challenging because of the expectations of other people, but also of yourself,” she said. “I’m just going to try to put myself in the position as much as I can and try not to have too many expectations.”
Korda, the second-ranked American player behind world No 1 Lilia Vu, is in strong position to qualify on ranking for the Olympics and says when it comes to playing in Paris that it depends – “If I qualify, yeah.”
Korda’s most vivid memory of her Olympic triumph at Tokyo was getting to share it with US teammate and older sister Jessica.
“Getting to share it with my sister, probably that was the best part about it,” Korda said. “It was a weird year. You couldn’t have family or friends out there. Didn’t really have the fans even though all the volunteers coming down 18 really made it feel like you were playing in front of a lot of fans.
“Honestly, that week is such a blur. All these weeks that you win kind of in a sense you blackout, where you get into your zone and you just groove.”
Korda (25) is the daughter of Czech tennis player Petr Korda, the 1998 Australian Open champion, who also lives nearby.
“It’s definitely weird staying at home and sleeping in my own bed,” Korda said. “But it has been nice.
“I live 40-ish minutes away so not too close. My parents probably live like 15, so I’ll be stopping by their house for dinner probably every single day. A little spoiled. But it’s going to be nice.”
© Agence France-Presse