Boutier takes control as Pagdanganan, Saso waver

Jan Veran - Philstar.com
Boutier takes control as Pagdanganan, Saso waver
Celine Boutier of France tees off during round one of the HSBC Women's World Championship golf tournament at Sentosa Golf Club in Singapore on February 29, 2024.
Photo by Roslan RAHMAN / AFP

MANILA, Philippines -- Frenchwoman Celine Boutier bounced back strong from a one-over card in the previous round with a solid eight-under 64, propelling her from joint 30th to seize the solo lead halfway through the Women’s World Championship in Singapore Friday.

After navigating through a challenging three-bogey, two-birdie showing Thursday, Boutier displayed her prowess on the Sentosa Golf Club’s Tanjong course, producing an impressive eight-birdie feat, including five at the front.

She kept the momentum and fired three more birdies in the last six holes, putting herself at the top of the stellar field heading to the weekend play of the $1.7-million championship.

Despite a modest 235-yard driving average and encountering difficulties reaching the greens, Boutier compensated with remarkable consistency on the putting surface, spiking her bogey-free round with only 22 putts.

Winner of four LPGA titles last year, including a major victory in the Evian Championship, Boutier took command with a 137 total, one stroke ahead of Japanese Ayaka Furue, who also surged with a 67 to wrest solo second at 138, while Swede Madelene Sagstrom put in a 68 to move to solo third at 139.

Opening-day leader Sarah Schmelzel holed out with a bogey on No. 18 and ended up with a 72 as she slipped to joint fourth at 140 with Taiwanese Peiyun Chien, who battled back with a 68, Nasa Hataoka of Japan and Aussie Stephanie Kyriacou, who matched 69s, and Korean Hyo Joo Kim, who shot a second straight 70.

Meanwhile, Bianca Pagdanganan, who posted a decent 71 in the first round, floundered with a birdie-less 76 and fell from joint 10th to a share of 38th at 147, now 10 strokes behind the new leader.

Yuka Saso also faced challenges with a 75 after an opening 74. The 2021 US Women’s Open champion opened with a bogey-double bogey skid from No. 3. Though she birdied Nos. 5 and 8, she conceded strokes on Nos. 6, 9, 10 and 14.

But she checked her skid in time, birdying Nos. 16 and 18 for a 39-36 and a two-day haul of 149 for joint 55th in a no-cut field of 66.

Saso missed four fairways and nine greens and needed 31 putts.

In contrast, Pagdanganan stayed within distance despite a run of eight pars. But she bogeyed the next two holes and never recovered, dropping shots on Nos. 12 and 17.

She hit nine fairways but struggled to stay in regulation eight times and wound up with 31 putts. She, however, rescued two pars from the bunkers.

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