Boutier wins Maybank Championship after nine-hole playoff

KUALA LUMPUR: Celine Boutier of France outlasted Thailand's Atthaya Thitikul in a playoff that tied for the second-longest in LPGA Tour history, securing her fourth tour victory of the season at the inaugural Maybank Championship on Sunday.

Boutier, 29, calmly sank a close-range birdie putt on the ninth extra hole, her fourth attempt on the par-three 15th of the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club's West Course.

The win allowed her to hoist the iconic Tiger Trophy and walk away with a cool US$450,000 (RM2.15m) winner's cheque.

The dramatic contest, which was also played four times on the par-five 18th, could not break the tie as both Boutier and Atthaya consistently matched each other's efforts, recording two birdies and five pars.

The ninth-hole play-off is tied for second longest in LPGA Tour history since Shin Ji Yai of South Korea defeated American Paula Creamer to win the 2012 Kingsmill Championship.

The record for the longest playoff on Tour went 10 holes, dating back to 1972 when Jo Ann Prentice prevailed against Sandra Palmer and Kathy Whitworth at the Corpus Christi Civitan Open.

This thrilling conclusion certainly delighted fans present at the venue, including Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah.

The Maybank Championship marked the LPGA Tour's anticipated return to Malaysian soil after a six-year hiatus.

Boutier must be relieved, especially since she narrowly missed a golden opportunity to clinch the tournament outright. She came close to a birdie at the last hole.

"I feel great. I feel like it was definitely a grind this whole week but especially today, and just being in a playoff is not always easy to handle. However, I am just happy with the outcome, obviously, and very happy with the way I handled the whole week," said Boutier.

"I didn't expect it (the playoff) to be that long, to be honest. I was just trying to do my best each hole. I feel like we were both very close to winning a few times.

"Attaya is an amazing player, but I just feel very happy to have held on for that long."

Beginning the day in tied eighth and five shots off the pace, Boutier impressively shot a bogey-free eight-under 64, finishing atop the leaderboard with a 21-under 267 after the 72-hole regulation.

Her effort was matched by Atthaya, 20, who closed with a 68 after birdieing three of her last four holes.

"Coming into the day, it was a long shot. I was quite a few shots back, and I also knew this course was pretty scorable, so I wasn't sure what the leaders are going to be like," she recounted.

"But I was just trying to focus on my own game and make as many birdies as I could and just see at the end."

Penultimate stage leader Rose Zhang of the United States had to settle for joint third with Thailand's Jasmine Suwannapura, who led the first two rounds, on 269 after she could only muster a 71.

Atthaya, who clinched her previous two LPGA Tour titles through playoffs, couldn't replicate that success for a third time.

However, the 2017 Kuala Lumpur Sea Games double gold medallist was not disheartened.

"It's exhausting. It's pretty tiring, to be honest. But I think it's the best playoff I ever had in my life," said Attaya, who boasts 12 top-10 finishes this season.

"Even if I lose, but I feel like, we played so good.

"I fought really hard on the playoff, and both of us are hitting really great shots and it paid off.

"It just goes to someone who did it better."

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