Top-ranked Vu aims to close out 2023 in style at LPGA Tour Championship

By AFP   November 15, 2023 | 06:36 pm PT
Top-ranked Vu aims to close out 2023 in style at LPGA Tour Championship
Golfer Lilia Vu. Photo by AFP/Michael Reaves
World number one Lilia Vu and Celine Boutier take their battle for LPGA Player of the Year honors down to the wire this week at the season-ending Tour Championship in Naples, Florida.

America's Vu, whose four titles this season include major crowns at the Chevron Championship and British Women's Open, regained the lead in the race for the prestigious award with a victory at The Annika on Sunday.

France's Boutier, who had moved ahead in the standings with a marathon playoff victory in Malaysia in October, said she could only be impressed by Vu's resilience.

"I was just honestly very impressed (by Vu's win)," Boutier said Tuesday as golfers prepared for the season-ending event at Tiburon Golf Club.

"Being able to pull it off under the circumstances and pressure, I'm like, yeah, she deserves it.

"We'll see what happens. She's had such an amazing season. Even if I don't get (Player of the Year), I'm very happy for her. It's hard to beat four wins and two majors, so whatever happens I'll be happy."

Boutier, 30, needed nine playoff holes to emerge with a victory over Thailand's Atthaya Thitikul in Kuala Lumpur, and said that test -- and victory in her home major the Evian Championship -- stood out as highlights in a stellar year.

"I feel like playoffs are always very tough emotionally, just to be able to handle the pressure," she said, noting that the two she'd played were "very different" with the first decided in just one hole.

"Then, obviously, I think the week in Evian was not necessarily one specific shot, but just the week in general. It's just such a tough week to handle as a local player, and so just to be able to have handled it successfully that week was definitely very rewarding as well."

Vu, 26, said her breakthrough 2023 campaign had been "just wild" in comparison to a disappointing 2022 season.

"I don't think I expected this at all," Vu said. "I have said this before. I came in with no expectations because last year I had too many and was too hard on myself. I'm trying to enjoy every moment and be grateful I'm out here."

Both players said they would focus not on the season-ending awards race but on the task at hand this week in the $7 million tournament.

Four past champions are in the field of 60, including South Korea's Ko Jin-young and Kim Sei-young, England's Charley Hull and Thailand's Ariya Jutanugarn.

But New Zealand's Lydia Ko didn't qualify to defend the title she won last year.

Twenty-two of the 23 LPGA Tour winners this season are in the field. That includes newly minted Rookie of the Year Ryu Hae-ran of South Korea who is among six rookies appearing in the tournament for the first time.

"It's so exciting," Ryu said. "Many players want to play this week, and I was able to make it."

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