By STEPHEN HAWKINS
IRVING, Texas — Caroline Masson still feels at times like the LPGA Tour rookie she is, even after three seasons on the Ladies European Tour and winning the South African Women’s Open last year.
Then there are rounds like Thursday, a bogey-free 7-under 64 that gave her a two-stroke lead over Carlota Ciganda after the first round of the inaugural North Texas LPGA Shootout.
“I always felt like I wasn’t too far away really. It was just like one bad round … just couldn’t really make any putts or whatever,” said Masson, who has made only one of five cuts so far this year. “I felt like, ‘OK, there’s a good round in me. I just got to be patient.’ And yeah, I think that’s what I did.”
Masson closed her round with a fist pump after sinking a curling putt from about 18 feet on the ninth hole, the longest birdie putt of the day for the 23-year-old German. She hit 17 of 18 greens and made a handful of 10-footers at Las Colinas Country Club.
Inbee Park, the No. 1 women’s player in the world, was among five players at 67. Taylor Coleman, a 16-year-old high school sophomore from San Antonio, shot 68.
While Masson tied for 13th at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, the only major so far this season, she missed the cut in her other four tournaments. She followed an opening 71 in Hawaii last week with a 79.
Asked about her mindset for the rest of this week, Masson said “just really focus on every shot and pay a lot of attention to the greens. … And just not thinking about it too much.”
Ciganda, the Spaniard who last year was the top rookie and top money winner on the European tour, had birdies on three par 3s. That was part of her best round this season, even while hitting only four of 13 fairways.
“I think the main defense was my putting today,” said Ciganda, who needed only 26 putts. “That’s really good for me. So I think that was the key today because I’ve been hitting good shots, good driver. So I’m just going to try to keep playing good and let’s see if I can make putts.”
Park, who regained the No. 1 ranking after winning the Kraft Nabisco, had five birdies through her first 13 holes. She was 3 under after getting a break at No. 8, a 403-yard hole.
“It was almost going in the hazard and it stopped a foot short of the hazard, and I made birdie from there,” Park said. “That was a turning point.”
The 24-year-old South Korean had two more birdies after that before her only bogey, at the 416-yard 14th after missing the green. She parred out after that.
Stacy Lewis, the Texas native who has a chance to regain the No. 1 ranking with a top-five finish this weekend, shot a 1-over 72. She had five bogeys, two coming on her last three holes.
This is the first full-field LPGA event in North Texas since the 1991 U.S. Women’s Open. The area hasn’t been an annual tour stop since 1982.
Coleman is one of two players who earned spots in the through a Monday qualifier especially for high school golfers.
A week after playing in the Texas Class 5A regional tournament, for a spot in next week’s state high school event, Coleman teed off Thursday with 140 pros and two college players.
On the putting green before the round, Coleman was next to Paula Creamer. But the nervous youngster didn’t talk to her favorite player. (By the way, Coleman finished five strokes better than Creamer, who shot 73).
“The first tee shot was really scary. My foot slipped and I was shaking so bad. By my next shot was even worse,” said Coleman, who still managed an opening bogey. “But after about the second hole, after I made that putt for par, I lost all my nerves and I just had some fun out there.”
Her only other bogey was at the par-5 seventh hole. Coleman had four birdies in a seven-hole stretch on the back nine, including her tee shot to within a couple of feet on the 135-yard 13th hole before draining a 30-foot putt on the next hole.
“I was getting more comfortable with my swing and having some more confidence,” she said.
Angela Stanford, who starred at nearby TCU and lives in Fort Worth, shot a 69 to open the first tournament in her 13 LPGA seasons when she gets to stay at home and sleep in her own bed.
“Getting in your own car and going to your own house and then cooking at home … Obviously we don’t get to do that much on the road, and I don’t do it much at home anyway,” Stanford said. “I thought about that today because I’m asking people where they’re eating, and this is the most I guess I’ve had at home in a long time.”