Boutier eyeing Maybank Championship trophy on first try

KUALA LUMPUR: French star Celine Boutier aims to make her first visit to Malaysia memorable by winning the inaugural Maybank Championship, her potential fourth LPGA Tour title of the season.

The US$3 million (RM14.34mil) event, set to commence at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club on Thursday, marks the return of the Malaysian stop on the LPGA Tour schedule, absent since 2017.

A total of 78 players, including six Malaysians, will vie for the US$450,000 (RM2.15mil) winner's purse.

The 29-year-old Boutier is undoubtedly the player to watch.

She is having her best season so far, clinching victories at the LPGA Drive On Championship in March, the Evian Championship in July, and the Women's Scottish Open in August.

Boutier is also contending for the LPGA Tour Player of the Year award, currently trailing the world No. 1 American, Lilia Vu, in the second spot.

With Vu sitting out this week's event, Boutier will be keen to secure another win, ensuring she remains on course to clinch both season-long awards, especially with only four events left on the calendar

"For sure it was not necessarily something I had in mind at the beginning of the season. I just happened to have had a solid few weeks this season to put myself in this position, so I definitely want to finish the season strong," she vowed.

"I feel like definitely especially the year-long awards, that's something really meaningful. I feel like it's so hard to be playing that level of golf for the whole season, and just to be able to be in this position is definitely very nice."

American duo Allisen Corpuz and Rose Zhang are the other two notable names savouring their debuts in Malaysia.

Corpuz gained prominence by winning this year's US Women's Open, while Zhang, a promising rookie, made headlines in her first professional start at the Mizuho America Open.

"I think just the opportunity to play in a new event is always special. I mean, I can tell people that I was in the first field here. I mean, just being in Asia is always really special," said the 25-year-old Corpuz.

Zhang said: "All first-time experience ever playing in Asia in general, so for me to be able to come out here and see Malaysia for the first time, not only seeing the golf course, playing the golf, but also being in a new setting.

"It's kind of something that I always wanted, especially being on tour. Now I get to travel and see a new place. It's pretty cool."

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