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May 9, 2024 7:38 pm

Rose Zhang (63) leads Founders Cup; Nelly Korda six back

rose zhang

Rose Zhang carded a career-best and tournament-record 9-under 63 to grab a two-shot lead in the first round of the Cognizant Founders Cup on Thursday in Clifton, N.J.

While all eyes in the sport are on Nelly Korda as she vies to run her personal winning streak to six straight starts, it was her fellow phenom Zhang who conquered Upper Montclair Country Club with nine birdies and no bogeys. Korda posted a 3-under 69 and is tied for 18th.

Zhang is two in front of Sweden’s Madelene Sagstrom. Ireland’s Leona Maguire is three back at 6-under 66, tied with South Korea’s Narin An and Australia’s Stephanie Kyriacou.

Zhang, 20, made her professional debut last June at the Mizuho Americas Open in nearby Jersey City and won the tournament.

“It’s almost the one-year anniversary I guess for me being on tour,” said Zhang, who recently finished up her final exams at Stanford. “I still feel like I’m learning every single week about myself, about how I should approach the golf game, and the lifestyle out here on tour.”

Her return to New Jersey saw her post a 6-under 30 on the front nine with four straight birdies at Nos. 6-9.

“It was almost just auto-command kind of golf,” Zhang said. “I feel like in the last couple weeks it’s been a little bit difficult. I’ve been struggling a little bit with the golf swing and gaining confidence in my preparation.

“But going into this week I kind of let it all go, let the expectations go a little bit more. I was able to free myself up a little bit, which was really nice to see some shots go in, especially on the greens.”

Sagstrom began her round on the back nine and quickly found some momentum by eagling the par-5 12th. She added six birdies and only one bogey on her day and was the leader in the clubhouse before Zhang passed her by.

“It was kind of a little bit of our bonus,” Sagstrom said of her eagle putt. “Traditionally I am a good putter. For some reason I putted well here all the years we been here. For me, my game plan has been to be a bit more consistent with my ball striking, giving myself some chances and, I really did that and took advantage of the some of the putts I had.”

Korda also started on the back and went birdie-bogey at Nos. 12 and 13. Though she left some birdie putts on the course, she holed her chances at Nos. 18, 2 and 9 to finish on a positive note.

“I have not thought about the streak at all, honestly,” Korda said. “I think that’s only going to do more harm for me than do good. Big thing for me is taking it a shot at time and being present and in my own bubble. That’s what I’m focusing on.”

–Field Level Media

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