Masson's win interrupts Asian domination of LPGA


Maybe the Americans and Europeans should meet in the Solheim Cup every year.

Those golf entities need more to cheer about.

We were reminded of that Sunday when Germany’s Caroline Masson won the Manulife Classic, becoming just the second European player to win an LPGA event this year. The Americans also have won just two stroke-play titles this year. The Europeans and Americans combined to win 13 titles just three years ago.

The shifting balance of power to Asia in women’s golf has been hardest on the Americans and Europeans.

Back in 1996 and ‘97, before South Korea’s Se Ri Pak won a pair of majors in ‘98 to set about the coming change in the world order, the Americans and Europeans swept the majors, winning four apiece.

The Americans have won just one of the last eight majors, the Euros just one of the last 31 majors.

Masson is the first European not named Suzann Pettersen or Anna Nordqvist to win an LPGA event since 2013, since Beatriz Recari won the Marathon Classic.

Masson’s first LPGA victory was timed perfectly. She’s teeing it up back in her homeland this week, at the ISPS Handa Ladies European Masters. Masson and Sandra Gal will be among 12 Germans in the field.

“It’s going to be huge,” Masson said of teeing it up in Germany fresh off her first LPGA title. “I think it’s probably the promoter’s biggest dream come true, that I could win this week and come home and play.”

Next week, Europe becomes the center of the women’s golf universe, with the year’s final major, the Evian Championship, being played in France.

Masson tied for 21st in the Olympics last month and said her victory in Canada was “100 percent inspired” by her Rio experience.

“I just want to be the best athlete and golfer I can be and really try to feel this Olympic feeling and attitude every day on the golf course, in the gym, wherever,” Masson said. “I came back [from Rio], and I went to Canada, and I was jet lagged and everything, but I went to the gym every day. I was so inspired by the athletes and their passion for their sports.”

It’s been an odd year for the Americans.

Through 24 LPGA tournaments, Lexi Thompson and Brittany Lang are the only Americans to win. In the 67-year history of the tour, the Americans have never failed to win at least at four events.

Still, the Americans have made the most of their moments.

Lang won the U.S. Women’s Open, taking the most coveted prize in women’s golf and the most meaningful for any American. Also, the Americans won the UL International Crown, with Thompson, Stacy Lewis, Gerina Piller and Cristie Kerr combining to win the team event.

Ironically, the Americans were crowned as “the best golfing nation” for taking home the title.

“That was so cool,” Lewis said after the Americans were awarded their crowns. “Because we’re under the constant scrutiny of, `Why aren’t the Americans playing well? Why aren’t they winning?’ I don’t know how else to say it, other than it’s just really satisfying.”

The momentum didn’t carry over to Rio. The Americans and Europeans were shut out on the medal stand, with Asian-born players taking the gold (South Korea’s Inbee Park), the silver (New Zealand’s Korean-born Lydia Ko) and the bronze (China’s Shanshan Feng).

There are more big prizes left with eight events remaining on the LPGA schedule. There’s the Evian Championship next week, six events on the Asian swing and then the Lorena Ochoa Invitational in Mexico before the tour returns to the United States for the season-finale CME Group Tour Championship and the $1 million jackpot that goes to the season-long CME points winner. There’s still time for the Americans and Euros to more than salvage the year.