Nelly Korda’s chase to become the first player in LPGA history to win six consecutive events remains alive and well as the weekend arrives at the Cognizant Founders Cup. After Rose Zhang, who shot four-under-par 68 early on Friday, Madelene Sagstrom notched a 66 in the afternoon, and both sat tied for first after 36 holes. Korda shot a bogey-free 66 at Upper Montclair Country Club to be four strokes behind the leaders in third place.

“I’m on the opposite wave of Rose, who played really, really well today today, and Madelene going off same wave as me, but playing really well,” Korda said. “Sometimes you get too ahead of yourself and maybe start pressing too much and making mistakes. Did a really good job staying present and in my own little bubble.

“Jess [sister and LPGA player Jessica Korda] says it could be like a drinking game now how many times I say it.”

MORE: Watch Nelly Korda’s 10 best shots during her record-tying win streak

Korda’s present-oriented mindset, which helped her tie Annika Sorenstam (2004-05) and Nancy Lopez (1978) for the most wins in a row on the LPGA with her fifth straight title at the Chevron Championship two weeks ago, could be seen as soon as she walked off the driving range Friday. The 13-time winner explained she didn’t look at a leaderboard all day, knowing that following yesterday’s afternoon wave scoring better than the morning, led by Zhang’s career-best 63, it would take a solid round to move up the leaderboard. With Clifton, N.J., getting a half-inch of rain over the past 24 hours, the conditions became even more difficult at the narrow track.

The No. 1 player in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings “locked in,” a phrase Korda used three times in three sentences in her post-round interview on Golf Channel, to the challenge, and delivered by hitting 17 of 18 greens in regulation in making six birdies. The clean scorecard moved Korda from T-18 to third for a manageable 36-hole deficit.


Nelly Korda watches her drive on the fifth hole.


The most Korda trailed by going into the weekend over her five straight victories was by five at the Fir Hills Seri Pak Championship, her first event after taking a seven-week break. Korda has only held the lead through two rounds amid this streak at the Drive On Championship back in January.

“Definitely more pressure on you when everyone is trying to get you,” Korda said. “And there is something fun about trying to catch the leaders.”

The 20-year-old Zhang’s 68 kept her atop the leaderboard alongside Sagstrom as the Swede opened the tournament with a 65-66 start. It’s a positive jolt for Zhang, the 2023 Mizuho America Opens winner, who despite not making back-to-back cuts this season over seven starts, appears to be playing a different golf course than most of the field.

“It is most certainly Upper Montclair Country Club,” Zhang said. “It was grueling out there.”

Zhang continues to succeed in the Garden State, where she won her first title in her professional debut at Liberty National last year. She had her only bogey of the tournament on the 16th hole. The 22nd player in the world rankings explained that she’s found confidence in her putter again, trusting its line and hitting it with the correct speeds. She followed up a 25-putt first-round performance with 27 putts Friday.

Sagstrom hopes to be a spoiler to the American stars, as she will play alongside Zhang in the final pairing on Saturday. The 31-year-old went out Friday with a clean five under to get to 12 under, then recovered from a double bogey on the 323-yard par-4 10th with a birdie and an eagle. The 62nd-ranked player in the world doesn’t want to fade into the background of a Zhang-Korda showdown.

“I hope I’m not that unknown,” said Sagstrom, who has one LPGA win (in 2020) and three Solheim Cup appearances for Europe. “I’ve been out here for a while now. Probably on the veteran side. This is the position everyone wants to be in. You want to be up on the leaderboard. You want to play against the best players. You want your game to be the best every week, if not be considered one of the best players in the world. These are the reasons I play.”

During the Founders Cup, the LPGA has some of its pioneers overlooking the 18thhole and shaking players’ hands as they walk off the course. LPGA Hall of Famer Pat Bradley is in one of those seats this week. The 73-year-old stood up and watched as Korda trickled home her eight-foot birdie putt to close her round, and like the rest of the golf world, Bradley is excited to see Korda’s historic chase unfold over the weekend.

“I think it’s incredible,” Bradley told Golf Channel. “Bless her [Korda’s] heart. She’s really shining the way we knew she would. I know it’s been tough for her probably, but now that she’s inside the ropes, in her element, and she’s able to really focus. Outside the ropes is a lot of action. So I have high hopes that she’s going to get her sixth.

“She’s going to have to work hard because Rose has set the bar, but it’ll be fun to watch them battle it out.”

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