After coming up just short so many times the last few seasons, LET member Celine Boutier from France finally got the job done in Gold Canyon, Arizona, defeating major champion Georgia Hall in a one-hole playoff to capture the LPGA Drive On Championship title and her third career LPGA Tour victory. The 29-year-old began the day at 16-under, holding a one-shot lead over Hae Ran Ryu, Alison Lee and Moriya Jutanugarn and got off to a fast start, carding back-to-back birdies on the second and third holes to move to 18-under. She dropped a shot on the par-4, sixth hole, a pivotal moment in her round, and then proceeded to par the next four before grabbing another birdie on No. 11.
The clubhouse lead of 19-under had already been posted by Ayaka Furue after the Japanese native fired a 7-under, 65, and Hall was working on a 65 of her own, going birdie-birdie-eagle to move to 18-under and sit one back of Furue. Boutier tied Furue’s lead after draining a lengthy birdie try on the par-5, 13th, but Hall wasn’t about to be left out of the conversation, making birdie on the 15th and 18th holes to post the new clubhouse lead, 20-under. Boutier parred her next four holes and came to No. 18 needing a birdie to force a playoff with Hall, ultimately getting up-and-down for birdie and sending the pair back to the tee to play 18 again. Both players found the short grass with their drives, but differed in strategy with their approach shots. Boutier bailed out to the right while Hall went right at it, ultimately finding the bunker behind the flag. Both players had tricky third shots that they had to hit close.
Boutier played a bump-and-run that skidded out to just about six feet while Hall’s bunker shot went well by, leaving her with an uphill 12-footer for birdie. Hall’s putt just skirted the edge of the cup, giving Boutier the advantage. Boutier’s relief was palpable when her putt found the bottom of the cup, a long-awaited third career win finally in her grasp and history made as she moved to the top of the list for French players with most wins on the LPGA Tour.
“It’s definitely very gratifying. I think it’s very much a little bit of a relief because I’ve been trying to win for few years now. I guess it’s been two years. Was definitely feeling a little bit down at times and a little bit frustrated thinking, can I actually do it? To be able to do to this week with this strong of a field is definitely very good for confidence,” said Boutier, whose last win came at the 2021 ShopRite LPGA Classic presented by Acer, which she won a fortnight after the 2021 Ladies Ladies Open de France, her third and most recent win on the LET.
“I feel like my game was good enough for the past couple years for sure. I just wasn’t able to win. I feel like it’s something you need to learn. I definitely had a bunch of opportunities last year and wasn’t able to do it, so to be able to do it this early in the season this year is definitely very satisfying.”
While losing in a playoff is always disappointing, Hall walked away with her head held high. Her 7-under 65 was her lowest round since the final day of the 2022 LPGA MEDIHEAL Championship and considering she began the day three shots back of the lead in a 12-way tie for seventh, she was incredibly pleased and proud of her Sunday effort. “Obviously, fantastic to get to the position I was in. I knew I had to shoot low today, and obviously gutted about the playoff. I had a lot of adrenaline on my second shot and it went a very long way,” Hall said. “I played well, to be honest, every day this week. I’m proud of myself.”
Furue ended up finishing alone in third at 19-under, with Korean Narin An one shot back in fourth at 18-under. Major champion Jin Young Ko and LPGA Tour winner Ally Ewing wound up tied for fifth and seven players finished in a tie for seventh at 16-under, including United States Solheim Cup captain Stacy Lewis, who carded all four rounds in the 60s. Defending champion Leona Maguire finished T23 at -13 overall.