Celine Boutier’s Breakout 2023 Season on the LPGA Tour

Celine Boutier’s patience finally paid off.

The 2022 season saw her earn six top-five finishes and six additional top-10 results, but a third victory continued to elude the Frenchwoman. She hadn’t won since the 2021 ShopRite LPGA Classic presented by Acer, and while 12 top 10s and the money those provided were nice to have, Boutier desperately wanted to hoist another trophy on the LPGA Tour. As she turned the page to the 2023 season, the two-time LPGA Tour winner was as determined as ever to find the winner’s circle.

And Boutier achieved that goal earlier than she might have expected.

After finishing 26th at the season-opening Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions, Boutier earned two top-15 results in her next two starts at the Honda LPGA Thailand and the HSBC Women’s World Championship, then teeing it up at the LPGA Drive On Championship at Superstition Mountain.

After a Thursday 69, Friday 66 and Saturday 65, Sunday felt like it could finally be Boutier’s day. The 54-hole leader played steady, posting a 68 to get to 20-under overall, but major winner Georgia Hall managed to rocket up the leaderboard with a final-round 65, sending the two Solheim Cup teammates into a playoff to decide a champion.

While it looked like the pair were poised to produce a ton of drama, ultimately only one extra hole was needed as Boutier birdied the par-5 18th at Superstition Mountain to claim her first LPGA Tour victory in 539 days and become the winningest French player in Tour history.

“It's definitely not easy to win. I feel like my game was good enough for the past couple of years for sure. I just wasn't able to win,” said Boutier in her winning press conference. “I feel like it's something you need to learn. I had a bunch of opportunities last year and wasn't able to do it, so to be able to do it this early in the season this year is definitely very satisfying.”
Celine Boutier of France poses with the winners trophy after a playoff win against Georgia Hall of England in the final round of the LPGA Drive On Championship at Superstition Mountain Golf and Country Club on March 26, 2023 in Apache Junction, Arizona. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

Funny enough, Anne-Marie Palli, one of the two French players that Boutier surpassed with her victory at the LPGA Drive On Championship, got to watch her younger counterpart take home her third career title at Superstition Mountain. It was a special moment for the two-time LPGA Tour winner, made even more so by an interesting coincidence that Palli and Boutier share when it comes to their first two Tour victories.

“It's wonderful for (Celine) to win. What's so fun, and I made her aware, she won in Australia, she won in Atlantic City and here, and Atlantic City and (Arizona) are the two tournaments I won as well on Tour,” said Palli. “(Celine is) a hard worker. She's a great player and she's very nice. I'm very excited for her. She always impressed me. I see her gaining more confidence year after year, and it shows on Tour. She's been getting better and better all the time, and it's not finished.”

Despite that prophetic prediction, things quieted down for Boutier after her win in Arizona. She missed two cuts and picked up two top-five finishes in her next nine starts, including a tie for third at the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational alongside her playing partner Yuka Saso, a result that gave her plenty of confidence heading into the Tour’s European swing.

Little did she know what was on the horizon.

As the LPGA Tour’s leading French player, The Amundi Evian Championship in Evian-les-Bains, France is an event that’s always circled on Boutier’s calendar, and it’s one that every Frenchwoman in the field would like to win at some point in their career. But in her six previous appearances in the event, Boutier just never seemed to get things going at Evian Resort Golf Club, missing two cuts and recording a tournament-best finish of T29 in both 2014 as an amateur and in 2021.

So, ahead of the 2023 edition of the event, Boutier’s expectations were heavily tempered. But with all eyes of an exuberant home-country crowd watching her every shot, that thought process ultimately paid off for the LPGA Tour champion.

Boutier opened with a strong 66 and backed it up with rounds of 69 and 67 on Friday and Saturday in Evian-les-Bains to hold a three-shot lead over Nasa Hataoka heading into the final round. Sunday saw Boutier at her best both mentally and physically as she held off the chasers, making one bogey and four birdies to post a 68, which was good enough to win by a whopping six shots over defending champion Brooke Henderson.

While the win was significant for the Frenchwoman as it was her first major victory since joining the LPGA Tour in 2017, it was also historic for The Amundi Evian Championship as Boutier became the tournament’s first-ever French champion.

“It's just unbelievable that I get to have my first major win at home in France,” Boutier said. “I could not have scripted it better. I feel like it's just so perfect that it's hard to believe that it's true. I'm so happy, and I'm so, so grateful.”
Celine Boutier of France celebrates with the Amundi Evian Championship trophy alongside Jacques Bungert, Director of the Amundi Evian Championship (R) and Franck Riboud (L) following the Final Round of the Amundi Evian Championship at Evian Resort Golf Club on July 30, 2023 in Evian-les-Bains, France. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

Winning a major takes a lot out of a player – particularly when you’re a local – so much of the time, an athlete will either withdraw from the next week’s tournament or limp through it, struggling to overcome the exhaustion that comes after a major victory.

But that wasn’t the case for Boutier.

She turned her attention to the FREED GROUP Women’s Scottish Open the very next week, an event in which Boutier finished runner-up in 2022. This time, though, she was determined to be hoisting a trophy come Sunday at Dundonald Links. Three straight rounds in the 60s saw Boutier sleep on another 54-hole lead for the second consecutive week, and history ultimately repeated itself on the final day in Ayrshire, Scotland.

As her counterparts fell away at Dundonald Links, Boutier stayed the course, turning in a ho-hum 70, which was good enough to stave off a late charge from Hyo Joo Kim and claim her second title in back-to-back weeks on the LPGA Tour.

“Absolutely crazy. I don't even think I could have dreamt that it would happen,” said Boutier, who became the first player since Ariya Jutanugarn in 2016 to win a major championship and the tournament after. “It's been amazing to be able to play that well, and to even have the chance to be in contention on the weekend this week was a complete bonus. To be able to hold the trophy again this week has been pretty insane.”
Celine Boutier of France celebrates winning the FREED GROUP Women's Scottish Open presented by Trust Golf at Dundonald Links Golf Course on August 06, 2023 in Troon, Scotland. (Photo by Octavio Passos/Getty Images)

Boutier kept a steady hand in her next four events, finishing T16 and T22 in the AIG Women’s Open and CPKC Women’s Open, and after helping Team Europe retain the Solheim Cup in September, she carded two more top 15s in October, one of which was a tie for fifth at the BMW Ladies Championship.

Like the rest of her counterparts, Boutier then arrived in Malaysia for the inaugural Maybank Championship, unsure of what to expect as 2023 marked the first time the LPGA Tour had teed it up in the country since 2017. She quietly began the week with a 70, turning up the heat at Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club after sandwiching a Saturday 69 with a pair of 8-under 64s on Friday and Sunday.

In the end, Boutier’s four-day total of 21-under was matched by Atthaya Thitikul, and the two battled it out for nine extra holes until a Boutier birdie on the last ended the second-longest playoff in LPGA Tour history, securing the Frenchwoman the Maybank Championship title and her fourth victory of the 2023 season.

“I didn't expect (the playoff) to be that long, to be honest. I was just trying to do my best each hole,” Boutier said. “I knew (Atthaya) wasn't going to make a mistake, so I had to go for it and give myself the best chances for birdies. She’s an amazing player, so it was nerve-wracking, but I feel very happy to have held on for that long. It was definitely a grind this whole week, especially today, and being in a playoff is not always easy to handle. Very happy with the outcome and very happy with the way I handled the whole week.”

The victory propelled Boutier to the top of the Rolex Player of the Year standings, but that work was erased when Lilia Vu won The ANNIKA driven by Gainbridge at Pelican a couple of weeks later. Boutier then had ground to make up at the CME Group Tour Championship as she now trailed Vu by 27 Rolex Player of the Year points, working hard to keep things in perspective as she set her sights on Tiburón Golf Club and a $2 million first-place prize.

“I wouldn't say necessarily (Rolex Player of the Year) was a goal at the beginning of the season. I’ve found myself in the position to have a chance to win it at the end, so it definitely has been more on my mind,” Boutier said in her pre-tournament press conference. “Lilia has had such an incredible season. It's hard to beat two majors. If I don't get it, I completely understand. She also deserves it as well. Just going to focus on finishing the season strong and see what happens.”
Celine Boutier of France kisses the trophy after winning the Maybank Championship at Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club on October 29, 2023 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (Photo by Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images)

Despite a final-round, 6-under 66, it felt like the Frenchwoman was stuck in neutral for most of the week in Naples, Fla., and ultimately, she couldn’t track down Vu with her T16 finish. But, while Boutier fell short of earning Rolex Player of the Year honors, the lessons that she learned in 2023 were a more than good enough consolation prize for the six-time LPGA Tour winner.

“I think (2022) was definitely a very good experience for me. Even though I didn't win as much, I had a lot of top 10s and weeks where I was in contention. This year, I felt more comfortable in contention, which I didn't necessarily feel last year, and just a little bit less pressure to have to win so hard,” said Boutier. “I feel like I take the opportunities as they come, and I don't necessarily try to force as much, which has been a little bit of a difference.

“As far as skills go, I don't feel too different. I don't feel like there was a big improvement in any parts of my game. As a person, I’m probably a little bit more comfortable in situations when I'm in contention, which wasn't necessarily the case before. I think that would be the main difference. Overall, I don't feel like a completely different person or a different player.”
Celine Boutier of France waves on the 18th green during the second round of the CME Group Tour Championship at Tiburon Golf Club on November 17, 2023 in Naples, Florida. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)

While she might not feel any different, Boutier will surely be looked at differently this year on the LPGA Tour. Four-win seasons don’t come around too often, and when they do, a player can go from the fringes to the forefront, quickly becoming someone who threatens to win every time they tee it up, no matter the tournament or the venue.

After a breakout 2023 season, Boutier is now definitely one of those players. And with a fresh, new LPGA Tour season looming large, Boutier will have another chance at writing history, something at which she became well-practiced in 2023.