Former teammates Celine Boutier, Yu Liu share lead at U.S. Women’s Open

CHARLESTON, S.C. — For those who hate seeing good things happen to Duke, this U.S. Women’s Open is not for you.

The school that opponents and critics love to root against was dominating again, with former Blue Devils teammates and champions Yu Liu and Celine Boutier tied for the lead after three rounds.

Liu rallied from four shots behind when the round began with a 5-under-par 66 to get to 7-under 206. Her good friend and fellow starter on the 2014 NCAA championship squad, Boutier, shot a 69.

“I don’t know about other people, but when I see Duke players playing well, I kind of want to play well, too,” Boutier said.

There’s been plenty of that recently, especially at the Country Club of Charleston.

Duke won another NCAA title last week and sophomore Gina Kim, an amateur, has been near the top of the leaderboard much of the tournament. Liu and Boutier kept that going to set up an ultimate Duke-on-Duke showdown for a major title.

“It’s a major championship,” said Liu, 23. “Everybody is out there trying to win and we’ll be very focused.”

Liu remembers the 25-year-old Boutier driving her to dinners and generally looking after her younger teammate. They kept their friendship after going pro, spending time at Symetra Tour and LPGA events.

They’ve even played together in a final pairing before, Liu said, at the HSBC Women’s World Championships earlier this year. “I didn’t play very well and she didn’t play very well, either,” Liu said.

Liu and Boutier were a stroke in front of Lexi Thompson, Jaye Marie Green and Mamiko Higa, the leader after the first two rounds.

Boutier held the lead at 8-under until she made her only bogey of the round on No. 16 after stubbing a chip and needing a 21-footer to limit the damage. She won the Vic Open in February in Australia for her first LPGA Tour title.

Liu, in her first U.S. Women’s Open, made six birdies in a 13-hole stretch to move up. She’s winless on the tour.

Thompson powered her way into contention, going eagle-birdie on the 15th and 16th holes for a 68.

Green shot 68, her second sub-70 showing this week after entering with just one round in the 60s in five Open appearances.

Higa had an up-and-down round of three birdies and three bogeys to lose the lead she’s held much of the week. She finished with her second straight 71.

Boutier was among 45 players who couldn’t finish the second round Friday because of a weather delay and had to return early Saturday to complete four holes before turning her focus to the third round.

What will it be like to play a friend and college teammate in the final pairing of a major?

“We probably won’t talk much,” Liu said with a laugh.

Pete Iacobelli is an Associated Press writer.

This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/sports/golf/article/Former-teammates-Celine-Boutier-Yu-Liu-share-13916430.php.

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