Golf

Rose Zhang wins Founders Cup as Nelly Korda's streak comes to unceremonious end

Rose Zhang will defend her first LPGA title coming off her second.
Mike Stobe/Getty Images
If there was to be a two-player Sunday duel at the Cognizant Founders Cup fueled by hot putters and world-class ball striking, most would have guessed it would have included Nelly Korda. After all, Korda had started the weekend just four off the lead and as the winner of her last five events, including the season’s first major at the Chevron Championship
Instead, it was the final pairing of Madelene Sagstrom and 21-year-old Rose Zhang who separated themselves from the pack, including the World No. 1.
Then it was Zhang, who fell behind early but closed the gap and flipped the script with four birdies over her final five holes, who won the Cognizant Founders Cup by two over Sagstrom.
“I’m still shaking right now. I think I never gave up. I always knew I had something in me to just grind it out, enjoy the time,” Zhang said on the 18th green after the win. “Madelene is an extremely solid player, she was basically hitting every single shot next to the hole, making putts. I had to prepare myself for the toughest challenge.”
This time last year, Zhang was getting ready to defend her title at the NCAA Individual Championship. Now, she’s coming off her second LPGA title with a chance to defend at the Mizuho Americas Open, at Liberty National, next week.
Zhang started Sunday trailing Sagstrom by a shot, but also 10 clear of the rest of the field.
“It almost felt like match play,” Zhang said. “I was telling my dad in the car yesterday that I played her at Solheim Cup last year and I knew she was a solid player. No matter what anyone else says, I know she can rise to the occasion no problem.”
Both players missed the first green Sunday, with Sagstrom making bogey to briefly fall into a share of the lead. But Sagstrom stormed back with four birdies on the front nine and opened a three-shot lead after another birdie on the par-5 12th.
That’s when Zhang twisted the plot with birdies at 14 and 15 before pulling even when Sagstrom, at 16, missed her first green in 14 holes at and made a bogey.
Zhang then stuffed her tee shot at the par-3 17th, working a draw just inside an overhanging tree to a right pin that settled just three feet from the hole. Sagstrom overcut her tee shot and found the bunker. She scrambled for par, though, and on the 72nd hole — a short par-4 — put pressure on Zhang by spinning her approach to within 10 feet.
Zhang responded by playing her approach just outside Sagstrom’s and then dripping the putt over the front edge to slam the door shut.
The final margin was two strokes over Sagstrom, who was 13 clear of Gabi Ruffels in third place.
“We’re the only two that’s been really low. I have to look at the positive,” Sagstrom said, still processing her emotions. “It sucks now. Yeah, it hurts a bit. It hurts at this course because I really like this place. My time will come.”
Korda, meanwhile, failed to muster any of the juice that had led to her tying the LPGA record for wins in consecutive starts with Annika Sorenstam. Her third round was marred by a poor putting performance as she lost seven strokes to the leaders.
Sunday wasn’t any better for Korda. She came out flat with seven straight pars before bogeys at 8 and 11 slid her down the leaderboard to a T7 finish at seven under.

Jack Hirsh is an assistant editor at GOLF. A Pennsylvania native, Jack is a 2020 graduate of Penn State University, earning degrees in broadcast journalism and political science. He was captain of his high school golf team and recently returned to the program to serve as head coach. Jack also still *tries* to remain competitive in local amateurs. Before joining GOLF, Jack spent two years working at a TV station in Bend, Oregon, primarily as a Multimedia Journalist/reporter, but also producing, anchoring and even presenting the weather. He can be reached at jack.hirsh@golf.com.
 
 
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