The weather was much better than expected on Moving Day at the Trust Golf Women’s Scottish Open and France’s Celine Boutier took full advantage of the slightly windy day in Ayrshire. Boutier began the day four shots back of 36-hole leader Lydia Ko and fired a 5-under 67 on Saturday to hold a share of the lead with one round left to play at Dundonald Links. She carded five birdies on the front nine, including three straight on Nos. 5-7, and recorded one bogey and one birdie on the back nine to post a three-day total of 201, her third-lowest 54-hole total on the LPGA Tour. It is Boutier’s fourth time holding the lead or co-lead through three rounds and in the three previous instances she’s gone on to win just once, at the 2021 ShopRite LPGA Classic.
“It was a very solid day. I started the front pretty solid and that helped me relax a little bit,” said Boutier said of her 67. “The conditions were more windy and a little bit tougher I would say so it was good to get a good start and stayed very patient. Had a lot of opportunities, and took advantage of some of them. I really like links golf and playing in windy conditions. I feel like my ball flight is pretty low and so I never really have trouble keeping it down which is an advantage here because the ball doesn't get affected as much. And I had some good memories of playing well in the past so that's always helpful.”
Ko wasn’t feeling as good about her Saturday play as Boutier. The Kiwi shot a 1-under 71, an up-and-down day that saw her make three bogeys and four birdies, with a chip-in for a two on the par-3 15th serving as the highlight of the round. The flat stick seemed to give Ko the most trouble in round three as she needed 33 putts to get the job done at Dundonald Links, leaving her saying it felt like the hole “was not apparent” on the green sometimes. But it’s still her 17th time holding the lead or co-lead through 54 holes, and considering she’s won eight times in the 16 previous instances, it feels like the odds are leaning heavily in her favor.
“I think I drove it a little better than I did the last couple days. My irons were not as sharp so I don't think I set myself up for as many easier kind of 15 feet and birdie opportunities,” said Ko, who hit nine of 14 fairways and 16 of 18 greens on Saturday. “I know it wasn't the best golf I’ve played, but I was able to scramble around. I don't think it was as bad as I think, and I think because I had two really low rounds it makes me compare more to the past couple days.I know there's a lot of good out there and hopefully maintain the good tomorrow and see the hole on the greens, on a few more tomorrow.”
Germany’s Leonie Harm and Epson Tour graduate Maude-Aimee Leblanc sit in a tie for third at -14, just one shot back of Ko and Boutier. Harm was disappointed to make her first bogey of the week on the par-5 third, but was able to shake it off and bounce back, making birdies on Nos. 5 and 9, and then finishing off her 5-under 67 with four birdies in her last five holes.
“It was a bit of a rough start. I had some par saves on the front nine and couldn't really quite hit it as close as I was used to the previous days, and then I had that bogey on three which kind of put me back a little bit,” said Harm, who is within five of the lead for the second time ever on the LPGA Tour. “But luckily I had the ability to turn it around with good saves on 7 and 8 and a long birdie putt on 9. Yeah, had a great finish, 4-under on the last five, so I'm really happy about that.
Three-time Epson Tour winner Lilia Vu and Korean major champion Eun-Hee Ji are tied for fifth at -13, with American Cheyenne Knight and sponsor exemption Wichanee Meechai one shot behind at -12 sitting in a tie for seventh. Four players are T9 at -11, including six-time LPGA Tour winner Nasa Hataoka and 2022 HSBC Women’s World Championship winner Hyo Joo Kim.