Whoa Nelly! Rose Zhang wins Founders Cup to end Korda’s record-tying LPGA Tour winning streak

CLIFTON, N.J. (AP) — Great things have been expected from Rose Zhang from the moment the two-time NCAA champion won in her professional debut last year and joined the LPGA Tour the following week.

The 20-year-old finally delivered again Sunday, birdieing four of the final five holes to win the Cognizant Founders Cup. She beat Madelene Sagstrom by two strokes while putting an official end to Nelly Korda’s record-tying LPGA Tour winning streak.

“I was able to gry to come out here. Didn’t have any expectation of having to win because I realize that it’s all just noise and I row so much throughout the journey in this past year,” Zhang said. “I don’t know, it’s crazeally just have to be able to work at it myself and try my best to put myself in positions like this.

“But no matter what happened this week, I would’ve been very satisfied and it reignited my passion for the game once again,” she added after winning on Mother's Day.

Zhang, who was talking to her mom coming into the media room, actually had a funny start to her round. The Stanford product almost fell on her rear end taking a shot from an awkward stance on the first hole. The shot could have gone anywhere. It hit the pin and she made par.

“I just thought to myself, wow, I mean, today is probably going to be a lucky day,” said Zhang, who played with Sagstrom in a stroke-play duel with the rest of the field far back. “Maybe I can get something going. Would not have imagined myself being (here) now, especially after 12.”

Sagstrom birdied that hole to take a three-shot lead and things did not look good for Zhang.

It got better in the event that honors the 13 founding members of the tour.

Zhang, who shot a 6-under 66, birdied Nos. 14, 15, 17 and 18 at Upper Montclair Country Club, while Sagstrom bogeyed the 16th in finished two back.

Korda, who struggled the final two days after playing magnificently in winning the five straight events she entered, began the day 11 strokes back and shot her second straight 73 to tie for seventh at 7 under.

She had no regrets. She hopes someone will join her and Hall of Famers Nancy Lopez and Annika Sorenstam in winning five straight or even more.

“But just to do that with all the competition out here is super, super rewarding with how much work that I’ve put in,” the 25-year-old Korda said. “So I think to get a streak like that in any sport in general is amazing with the amount of talent that I feel like every athlete has in their sport. Just an amazing feeling and hopefully one day it’ll sink in.”

It was a heart-breaking end for Sagstrom, the 31-year-old Swede who started the day with a one-shot lead and was looking for her first victory since 2020 and second overall on tour.

"I struck it so nicely this week. I’ve worked really hard for a long time,” Sagstrom said. “I putted incredible. It’s really high up there. That’s probably why it hurts more. Nothing against Rose. She played incredible. I kind of wish I gave myself a few more chances at the end there. Didn’t want it to end that way. This is probably the best golf I played in years.”

Sagstrom led by three after 13, but Zhang curled in a birdie putt at 14 and made an 8-footer on the next to draw within one. They were tied after 16, with Sagstrom missing a 10-foot par putt after a bad chip from the back fringe.

After Sagstrom saved par at the par-3 17th with a fast, downhill 25-footer, Zhang took the lead with a short birdie putt and she closed things out on the final hole with Sagstrom waiting to make a birdie attempt.

Zhang, who won last year at nearby Liberty National in her pro debut, finished at 24 under 264.

Rookie Gabriela Ruffels of Australia was third at 9 under, her best finish. She shot 71. Peiyun Chien of Taiwan and Ruoning Yin and Xiyu Lin of China tied at 8 under.

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