French youngster Celine Boutier will take a five-shot lead into tomorrow’s final round of the Australian Ladies Classic Bonville after a masterful performance in challenging conditions during the third round here in Coffs Harbour.
Starting the day two behind overnight leader, Briton Holly Clyburn, the diminutive 24-year-old played a flawless front nine in 32 and added two more birdies on the back nine as she put daylight between herself and the field in this Ladies European Tour-sanctioned event.
In a field where experts suggest the title might be lifted by either Clyburn or Australian Hannah Green – who started as tournament favourite – Boutier simply got on with the job of racking up birdies in conditions which tested even the veterans.
“Celine played fantastic out there. She did not miss anything. I didn’t expect her to go out there and shoot 67 at all, in these conditions. It was her day,” said Clyburn, who started the day at -8 but slipped back into a share of second with a disappointing two-over 74.
“I’m in touching distance, you don’t know what tomorrow will bring. I’m hoping that she (Boutier) doesn’t do that (again) tomorrow and that I get the rub of the green. We’ll just wait and see.
“It’s been a long day.”
Whilst Clyburn’s disappointment was obvious, Boutier had the air of a player who’d been there before.
“I was just playing my game. I didn’t pay attention to the leaderboard. I didn’t even know I was that far ahead,” she said.
Being this far in front won’t involve a change of strategy for tomorrow. “My strategy has been working very well. And I think the girls can shoot very low tomorrow, so I don’t think I should be too conservative,” she said.
Olivia Cowan, the German who started in the final group, will attest to that. If not for a disastrous triple-bogey on 12 and double bogey on 4, she would be deep in contention. The mistakes she later put down to poor shot selection.
“I definitely feel like I can shoot low,” the 21-year-old said.
“(Today) could’ve been a seven or eight-under round, so I’m going positive into tomorrow knowing that I can play well and we’ll see what happens.”
The German was full of praise for her French playing partner. “You see Celine playing five-under in these conditions, it’s really good. “
The conditions should be mentioned. The morning began with more tropical rain, enough to wake the deepest sleeper. But this magnificent golf course in the Coffs Coast rainforest continues to surprise – this time with its ability to drain.
Ongoing showers throughout the day tested the grip and grind of the professionals, but it stayed balmy and the forecast thunderstorm never arrived. Maybe it will tomorrow.
Meantime, Boutier was a model of consistency as Australian Hannah Green continued with her birdie/bogey wrestling match today. The West Australian scored five birdies and five bogeys, later admitting “I’m personally finding it hard to find the pace” of the greens.
“The bogeys have come because I’ve been three-putting, which is quite unusual. I’m usually more consistent, but I’m glad I’m making this many birdies. Hopefully the scorecard will be a little cleaner tomorrow.”
The 22-year-old still has the confidence she can win.
“If you want to win, you have to believe you can,” she said.
Whilst Green is the highest-placed Australian (7th) her compatriot Rebecca Artis is also contending. The Queenslander fought the conditions to post an even-par round to remain at three-under and in T8.
“I had it going early but got a bit sloppy in the middle of the round. I made a few bad mistakes that stopped my momentum,” the 29-year-old said.
“I’m not too far back … I can win from there. I’ve won from there before. I won in Scotland from six back, and I won in Sweden from six back. I’ll just go out and see if I can get it going and put some pressure on during the back nine.”
The day’s equal-lowest round came from Icelandic professional Olafia Kristinsdottir. The 25-year-old was named Iceland’s sportsperson the year in 2017 – the same year she underwent double jaw surgery to correct an underbite.
Playing in the second group out, her equal career-best 67 included an eagle on the seventh and five birdies.
“The greens were fresh, and we were really lucky with the weather. I played really well, I drove it well, putted well … I did everything well,” she said.
1: Boutier, Celine – 11
2: Clyburn, Holly – 6
T3: Burnett, Katie -5
T3: Holmqvist, Daniela – 5
T3: Cowan, Olivia – 5
T3: Jonsdottir, Valdis – 5
7: Green, Hannah – 4
T8: Artis, Rebecca – 3
T8: Madsen, Nanna – 3
10: Parker, Florentyna – 2