Celine Boutier felt in the zone on Friday. Despite all the craziness that wafts through them.
With gusts of 15 mph or more, the Frenchman built her second 7-under-par-65 in a row to build a four-stroke lead in the $ 5 million CME Group Tour Championship at Tiburón Golf Club at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort.
On Thursday the elite field with 60 players dealt with rain and moisture. The second lap, swirling winds, especially for the afternoon leaders, was the next element thrown at their path.
For Boutier it didn’t matter who fired a 6-under 30 on the second nine.
“I think something about hard courses makes me focus even more, and then I was just very confident with my iron game,” said the 28-year-old, who won the ShopRite LPGA Classic for her second LPGA Tour win last month. “I think I was kind of in the zone to be honest. I just didn’t think about it. I just picked a number and then I could just do it.
“It played very differently than (Thursday). In any case, the wind was a big factor. I actually enjoy the wind. That depends on the intensity of course, but I think it was very manageable today. I have the feeling that it was me “hitting it well definitely makes a difference when it’s windy. I was able to take advantage of that. “
CME Group Tour Championship:Sophia Popov from Naples is happy to be back after being absent last year
CME Group Tour Championship Notebook:Annika Sorenstam, Nancy Lopez at the Rolex Awards
More:New LPGA commissioner will meet with national media on Friday
Boutier heads an international scoreboard at CME Group LPGA
Mexico’s Gaby Lopez, Australian Minjee Lee and American Mina Harigae, who played with Boutier, are all 10 under 134 in second place with two rounds to determine the $ 1.5 million winner at the LPGA Tour season-end .
Golfers from six different countries are among the top eight in the ranking.
“Celine, she’s a great player,” said Harigae, who lost to Boutier in the Solheim Cup. “To be honest, she’s kind of an all-round player. Great striker, great short game and really, really good putter.
“You know, that’s 14-under for two days.”
England’s Georgia Hall, South Korea’s Eun-Hee Ji, world number 1 Nelly Korda, and South Korean first-round leader Jeongeun Lee are tied in fifth place, with Jin Young Ko, Ally Ewing, Megan Khang and Lexi Thompson another Hit back on 8-under.
Harigae climbed the leaderboard again by doing a long birdie put at # 16 and another birdie at # 17. She could measure the wind well all day, although she said she just couldn’t get anything going for most of it.
“I was lucky that it wouldn’t be right when I wanted to strike,” she said. “All I could say was that it was like ending a gust or never really – I was lucky enough to never be affected by those gusts.”
Boutier gave seven of her last 10 holes a birdie, starting with numbers 9 and 10 one after the other, then more on numbers 12-13, 15, 17 and 18.
“Hopefully starting today I’ll get a little bit of confidence to be able to – I think one thing that has been a little difficult for me is that sometimes when I get nervous I get tense and I start to rethink and to keep control of my shots, “she said.” So I have the feeling that hopefully from today I will get a little more self-confidence and will be able to play a little more relaxed tomorrow and over the weekend. “
While Harigae got going late in their round, both Lopez and Lee pointed early to par-putts to help.
Lopez hit a shot in the water at # 4, but managed to make par. She followed up with birdies on numbers 5 and 6 and went on to take a 4 under 68.
Lee had an uphill par putt on # 3, made it, then responded with birdies on # 4 and 6. She bogeye # 18 for a 68.
Lopez has two wins in her career and five top 10 wins this year, including one on Sunday at the Pelican Women’s Championship near Tampa, to give her some confidence, Lee can draw on this year’s Evian Championship win.
“I’m just more mentally competitive and I won’t let that get me down instead of focusing on what to do to get the ball in the hole,” said Lopez of Boutier’s four-stroke lead.
Lee said, “It’s like a little quiet confidence to me just so I can go out and play with confidence and know that I can play under pressure and play well under pressure.”
Boutier said dealing with pressure is something she learns, especially when working with top players. Lopez has two wins, but not on the level of Nelly Korda or Jin Young Ko, for example, who are fighting for the player of the year.
But the ShopRite win and one in September at the Lacoste Ladies Open de France make her feel more comfortable.
“Honestly, it was probably a big win at home and at the ShopRite,” she said. “Of course, winning and playing at home is never easy and then being able to get my second win at ShopRite, which was two and a half years after my first win, has definitely helped build my confidence.
“You never know. Maybe the first time was luck. You kind of want to confirm it. So it was very good for my confidence and I feel a little more comfortable in this situation now.”
Greg Hardwig is a sports reporter for the Naples Daily News and The News-Press. Follow him on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter: @NDN_Ghardwig, email him at [email protected] Support local journalism with this special subscription offer at https://cm.naplesnews.com/specialoffer/