May 17th, 2024

Sagstrom, Zhang break away in Founders Cup, dashing Korda’s bid for record 6th straight LPGA victory

By Tom Canavan, The Associated Press on May 12, 2024.

CLIFTON, N.J. (AP) – Madelene Sagstrom and Rose Zhang left Nelly Korda and everyone else way behind Saturday in the Cognizant Founders Cup.

Trying to win a record sixth straight LPGA Tour event, Korda was 11 shots behind Sagstrom and 10 back of two-time NCAA champion Zhang with a round left at Upper Montclair Country Club.

After months of near-perfect play, Korda inexplicably hit bad drives, found bunkers from the fairway and missed short putts. She shot a 1-over 73.

“I think I’ve played really good golf the past couple months,” Korda said. “I’m human, so I’m going to have bad days. I’m not going to feel 100% out here mentally, physically, or whatever, but I’m going to give it my all. It was just one of those days where it felt like a constant battle and didn’t really play too well.”

Sagstrom, who has played well on this course the last three years, had a 66 to get to 19-under 197. Zhang, who won in her professional debut in New Jersey a year ago, had a 67 after lipping out on a short birdie putt at No. 18.

Unless something unexpected happens, one of them will win their second LPGA Tour title. The 31-year-old Sagstrom has not won since 2020. The Swede who starred at LSU had a bogey-free round of six birdies, highlighted by three in row on the last three holes on the front nine.

“I felt like this laser focus all week,” Sagstrom said. “I felt super, not super committed to everything, but I felt really in the moment. And that’s kind of the game I think I need to play tomorrow.”

The 20-year-old Zhang, who played at Stanford and won the Mizuho Americas Open in Jersey City last year, had seven birdies and two bogeys.

Zhang and Sagstrom had a good time on the course, congratulating each other on good shots while sharing a couple of laughs.

“I think the most important thing for me is just to really try to relax, enjoy the moment, enjoy the shots that I’m hitting,” said Zhang, whose best finish was a tie for seventh in six events this year. “Even if I’m not hitting it great, just learning how to commit to everything is the most important.”

Korda, the world’s No. 1 ranked player, was tied for third at 8 under with Sei Young Kim of South Korea and Gabriela Ruffels of Australia, who each shot 67.

The 25-year-old Korda had three birdies and four bogeys, the first coming on the opening hole after finding a bunker from the fairway. She missed her drive right on No. 5 and needed two more shots to get on the green at No. 5 for her second bogey. A three-putt from 25 feet on No. 7 was her third, and the worst was hitting a 70-or-so yard chip from the fairway right into a bunker at No. 9 for the fourth bogey.

“Yesterday was good in everything and today was poor in everything, so that’s just pretty much golf for you,” said Korda, who shot a bogey-free 66 Friday. “Just made too many kind of stupid, silly mistakes, which was unfortunate because they were playing so well. So now there is just a massive gap.”

The LPGA Tour record for largest deficit overcome in winning a tournament is 10 shots. It has been done three times by Mickey Wright (1964). Annika Sorenstam (2001) and Louise Friberg (2008 ).

Korda came into the tournament having taken two weeks off after winning the Chevron Championship. It was her fifth straight title and tied her with Hall of Famers Sorenstam (2004-05) and Nancy Lopez (1978) for the tour’s longest winning streak.

Sagstrom called Korda’s streak incredible and it’s something every player on tour strives to do.

“I think she’s really stepped up the attention on women’s golf lately and it’s really cool to watch,” Sagstrom said. “I think it’s really good for the game.”

It had to end sometime, and it’s not surprising it will probably happen this week the way Sagstrom and Zhang are playing. They’ve done a Korda on Nelly.

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https://apnews.com/hub/golf

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