Winning on the LPGA Tour only gets tougher with each passing season. In 2022, 26 different players won over the course of the 32-event season with nearly a dozen of those players becoming champions for the first time.
And as the competition continues to grow and the fields get deeper, it becomes more challenging for players like Celine Boutier, a model of consistency who contends week-in and week-out, to return to the winner’s circle.
But on Sunday at Superstition Mountain Golf and Country Club, two years and 15 top-10s removed from her last win, Boutier earned her much anticipated third career victory at the LPGA Drive On Championship. It was a fitting title for Boutier as the tournament shares its name with the Tour’s long-running campaign that recognizes the resiliency of its members. Boutier has embodied that drive-on spirit over the past two seasons as she’s fought on, despite the swirling questions in her mind about whether she would ever win again.
“It's definitely very gratifying. I think it's very much a little bit of a relief because I feel like I just -- I've been trying to win for few years now. I guess it's been two years. Was definitely a little bit -- feeling a little bit down at times and a little bit frustrated thinking, can I actually do it?” Boutier said after her win on Sunday. “I feel like my game was good enough for the past couple years for sure. I just wasn't able to win.”
Boutier took a one-stroke lead into the final round in Gold Canyon, Arizona and had to hold off a charging pack of major champions, including Georgia Hall, a close friend whom Boutier defeated on the first playoff hole. Jin Young Ko, Hinako Shibuno, and Stacy Lewis finished within four strokes of Boutier at the first full-field event of the season.
This week, the Tour heads west to California for the DIO Implant LA Open where the field features 144 players who will compete for a $1.75 million purse. And for the second straight week a stacked field is slated to compete with seven of the top 10 in the Rolex Rankings including top-ranked Lydia Ko, Nelly Korda, Jin Young Ko, and Atthaya Thitikul. Nasa Hataoka returns as defending champion having captured her sixth career win last season in Los Angeles.
After being played for four years at Wilshire Country Club, this year the DIO Implant LA Open has a new home at Palos Verdes Golf Club. In 2022, the club hosted the LPGA for the first time with the Palos Verdes Championship. Marina Alex won the inaugural event at the club by making her own much-anticipated return to the winner’s circle, four years removed from her first win. Alex managed a narrow one-stroke victory ahead of a pair of Ko’s in Jin Young Ko, who finished second, and Lydia Ko who finished in a share of third.
The competition is deep on the LPGA Tour. And the player who hoists the trophy on Sunday in California will do so knowing they outlasted 15 of the top 20 in the world and defeated nearly two dozen major champions. It’s not easy to win on the LPGA Tour, but it’s certainly worth the fight.