Evian, France | AFP | Friday 7/29/2023 – 02:09 Celine Boutier birdied the final hole from five feet to head the field at the halfway stage of the Evian Championship on Friday and raise hopes of a home victory in the women’s major.
It was a tough second day with strong winds, testing pin conditions and a round stretching to close to six hours. It was a test of patience and stamina as much as golf.
But Boutier, two off the lead following an opening 66, posted a fine 69 for seven under par and edged one clear of Thailand’s Patti Tavatanakit and Japan’s Yuka Saso, who both won majors in 2021.
But it was a poor day for New Zealand’s Lydia Ko, who won the title as an 18-year-old in 2015. Joint second overnight, she dropped back to even par after a disappointing 76.
Boutier has had top tens in all the other four women’s majors but has never finished higher that 29th in seven appearances in the French member of the big five.
“It’s definitely not easy playing at home,” admitted the 29-year-old who has won three times in America.
“I don’t think I’ve handled it very well in the past.
“I put pressure on myself and didn’t want to let people down. But I’ve learned just to focus on my game. This year it’s been fun hitting good shots and hearing people cheering for me.”
She added: “It was a very positive end to the round. Tomorrow’s conditions are going to be windy again so I’m just going to try and stay very patient.”
Tavatanakit started at the tenth and dropped a shot at the 11th.
But birdies at the 12th and 14th set her back on course and the joint best of day 67 raised hopes of adding another major to the 2021 Chevron Championship.
“I’ve got very special memories coming here. I played in the Palmer Cup as an amateur and I fell in love with Europe,” said the 23-year-old.
“The crowds are so lovely and friendly and it just makes me happy.
“I didn’t make the perfect start today, but the birdie on 12 changed it round and it was a very good round on a difficult day.”
Saso won the 2021 US Open – as with Tavatanakit the major is her only LPGA title – and she said the key to her 69 was patience.
“I’m happy where I am on the leaderboard,” said the 22-year-old. “It’s been two really good rounds.”
Nasa Hataoka matched Tavatanakit’s 67 to move into a share of fourth place on five under par with American Alison Lee (71) and Mexico’s Gabby Lopez (68).
South Africa’s Paula Reto, the first round leader on 64, maintained her two-shot advantage through the first 11 holes.
But she came close to going out of bounds and took double-bogey six at the 12th and dropped further shots at the 13th, 14th and 16th and signed for a 75 and three under.
Defending champion, Brooke Henderson, stayed in touch on three under after a 70, while world number one Ko Jin-young repeated her opening 70 for two under.