Caroline Masson broke out of a star-filled pack Sunday to win the LPGA Manulife Classic for her first tour title.
The 27-year-old German player rebounded from an opening double bogey to make nine birdies in a 5-under 67. She beat third-round leader Mi Hyang Lee, Minjee Lee and Solheim Cup teammate Karine Icher by a stroke, finishing at 16-under 272 at Whistle Bear.
“It’s hard to believe. It really is,” Masson said. “Obviously, I was in a good position coming into today, and I was thinking, ‘Well, if I can shoot a really good round, I might have a chance.’ But I was totally not expecting it.”
Masson joined Anna Nordqvist and Brittany Lang as the only players over 23 years old to win in the first 24 events this season — and also joined Nordqvist as the only European winners. She was showered in beer in celebration on the 18th green.
“I think they picked beer because I’m German. They figured I could take it,” Masson said. “I appreciate the girls coming out and congratulating. I prefer the beer over the water, I think.”
Mi Hyang Lee had a 71, Minjee Lee shot 68, and Icher 66.
“She was making a lot of birdies,” Minjee Lee said about playing partner Masson “I knew it was going to be pretty close. She played great.”
Mi Hyang Lee parred the final two holes to miss a chance for a playoff.
Ariya Jutanugarn tied for fifth at 14 under in her bid to win three straight events for the second time this season. The second-ranked Jutanugarn made two late bogeys in a 70.
Masson didn’t make a par until the seventh hole, following the double bogey with three straight birdies, a bogey on No. 5 and a birdied on the sixth. The former Oklahoma State player had four straight birdies on Nos. 9-12, bogeyed the par-4 13th and birdied the par-5 16th. She birdied all four par 5s.
“I got off to a really bad start,” Masson said. “I doubled the first hole and from then on just kind of, well, ‘There’s no pressure. You don’t have to feel any pressure to win or do anything. Just keep making birdies.’ And that’s what I did all day. I tried to stay relaxed out there, enjoy it.
“It’s such a beautiful day and such a beautiful golf course. I just really tried to have a good time with my caddie, Danny (Sharp). It’s unbelievable that it really worked out in the end.
Projected to jump from 87th to 44th in the world, she’s playing an event in Germany next week.
“I’m going home to Germany tonight, hopefully, if I catch my flight,” Masson said.
Top-ranked Lydia Ko and 2015 winner Suzann Pettersen also were 14 under.
Ko had a 68. The 19-year-old New Zealanders has four LPGA Tour victories this year.
“There were a few putts that kind of slipped by, but considering where I was at the end of Friday, I think it was a pretty good job on the weekend,” Ko said.
Pettersen finished with a 66.
Canadian star Brooke Henderson tied for 39th at 7 under after a 71.
“It’s been incredible,” Henderson said. “The fans and the support that I’ve had is just unbelievable.”