News // Boutier’s beautiful present for dad

Boutier’s beautiful present for dad

Celine Boutier’s father had quite a birthday present at the HSBC Women’s World Championship yesterday. His 30-year-old daughter added a bogey-free 64 to her opening 73 to pull up on 7 under par and a shot clear of Japan’s Ayaka Furue.

Because her parents only watch a couple of tournaments a year — last week’s Honda LPGA Thailand and this HSBC Women’s World Championship, Boutier had her heart set on putting on a good show. “Because it was his birthday, I wanted to make it a point to play well. The 64 has left them very excited.”

So what did it take? Eight birdies and ten bottles of water in the gripping heat. Because of the heat, last week and this, she was planning on a good overnight rest as opposed to taking her parents out on the town.

The French player won four times last year but, when asked if she felt at ease in that top slot on the leaderboard, she shook her head. “I don’t know that I do. With so many great players you’re never going to feel far ahead.”

However, she has all the guts in the world and never demonstrated them more than when, with her win in last October’s Maybank Championship, she took eight extra holes to defeat the talented Atthaya Thitikul.

Furue, the 23-year-old Japanese player that Boutier has snapping at her heels, is a deadly little performer. Her height is no more than five feet, but she walks tall and exudes confidence. Which is perhaps what you would expect when she has been playing golf since the age of three.

As to what you should expect of a three-year old girl, the BabyCentre site advises that the average 3-year old “will love showing off new skills… She will be at the ‘Look and me, look at me stage.”

In the 67 she added to her opening 71, the clubs were sending out that “Look at me” message as, indeed they have done throughout a career in which she has followed Tiger Wood’s advice to the letter. What Woods has repeated over and over is that an aspiring golfer should take aim on winning at every level.

Furue won Japan’s junior high school championship in 2017 and 2018 and, one year further on, she bagged the JLPGA’s Fujitsu Ladies Championship as an amateur. That performance gave her an exemption to the LPGA of Japan, while her next significant feat was to finish fourth in the ’21 Evian championship and arrive at No.14 in the world. In ‘22, she won her LPGA card and already has a Scottish Open under her belt.

Planes, rain and threatening clouds all had a role on a day which nonetheless finished on time with Madelene Sagstrom arriving back at base as the only player with 36 bogey-free holes. She said she had been “playing smart when I needed to” and that her putter’s performance had been “pretty decent”.  As for her mental approach, she explained how she had spent her last weekend thinking of how she needed to give herself chances and “to keep pushing” instead of putting on the brake. “I can get a little timid and scared and hold on for dear life rather than keep pushing because the girls today are so good you can’t stop.”

It is all too easy for golfers to forget their good intentions and that is what happened to Lilia Vu in her second round.

Having spent the whole of ’22 concentrating on her mental approach, Vu realised that she had to stop being so hard on herself and that she could do with smiling rather more.

That approach could not have worked better as she won two majors and four tournaments in all last year. However, in her second round 74 on the Tanjong course, there were no smiles and no birdies.

That she is seven shots behind Boutier is maybe a few too many, even for a World No 1.