Nelly Korda’s bid for an historic six wins in a row on the LPGA are all but gone in the Cognizant Founders Cup. The World No. 1 shot a one-over 73 on Saturday at Upper Montclair Country Club and sits 11 shots off the lead of Swede Madelene Sagstrom heading into the final round. The largest 54-hole deficit ever overcome on the tour is 10 shots by three players, including Mickey Wright and Annika Sorenstam.

Sagstrom, seeking her second tour victory, shot a bogey-free six-under 66 in the third round to get to 19 under and take a one-stroke lead over former amateur phenom Rose Zhang (67), the 20-year-old who captured her first tour title in New Jersey last year.

“It’s just kind of poor in all aspects,” Korda said of her play on Saturday. “Yesterday was good in everything and today was poor in everything, so that’s just pretty much golf for you. Yeah, just made too many kind of stupid, silly mistakes, which was unfortunate because [her competitors] were playing so well. So now there is just a massive gap.”

Korda, 25, began four back after a bogey-free 66 Friday and fell behind with a challenging front nine. The 13-time winner carded four bogeys before making the turn at two over par. It’s an out-of-character performance for her over this run of five consecutive wins, as Korda only had four bogeys over her previous 84 holes. According to Justin Ray, lead data analyst of the LPGA’s KPMG Performance Insights, Korda’s 73 is the first time in 22 rounds she didn’t beat the field average, which was 71.7 on Saturday.

“I’m far away, but still in it in a sense,” Korda said. “Just going to try and shoot my shot tomorrow and see how it goes. You’re going to have bad days, so I’m human, and at the end of the day now I have something to go and work on, too.”

Korda is in line to end up trailing the winners in her bidsimilar to how N ancy Lopez (1978) and Annika Sorenstam (2004-2005) did. Lopez lost by 15 strokes at the 1978 Lady Keystone Open, while Sorenstam was defeated by 10 at the 2005 Michelob Ultra Open.

With Sagstrom and Zhang breaking away from the field while playing in the final pairing Saturday, they have effectively set up match play between the two for their respective second career titles. They played against each other twice in fourball at last year’s Solheim Cup, where Sagstrom went 1-0-1 against Zhang. Their putters are hot, fueling their separation from the pack, as Zhang leads the field in total putts (79) and Sagstrom is third (82).

“I felt like we kind of fed off each other all day,” Sagstrom said.


Sweden’s Madelene Sagstrom is seeking her second LPGA title.

Mike Stobe

The 30-year-old explained that while playing alongside Zhang she wanted to focus on staying in the rhythm she had developed since a closing 65 at the JM Eagle LA Championship two weeks ago. Instead of the 2020 Gainbridge LPGA winner getting ahead of herself when Zhang made birdie on the first, and Sagstrom missed, she remained calm and reminded herself that she can shoot a low number with how good her game is of late. The three-time Solheim veteran is dialed in on the greens with her AimPoint putting system, which she’s used since 2021, carding 18 birdies and two eagles over her first three rounds.

“It’s still another new day of golf,” Sagstrom said, “but my game feels really solid. I think I got a good chance.”

Even while Zhang played alongside Sagstrom, she spent plenty of Saturday observing how the eight-year LPGA veteran carried herself during a clinical round. Zhang feels there is a difference between her youthful energy and that of an experienced player like Sagstrom.

“I’ve always admired Madelene’s game,” Zhang said. “She’s been out here for a while and she’s a veteran, so I am actually just trying to learn and seeing how she’s doing it.”

A victory by Zhang would be her second in the Garden State. Her win at Liberty National in her professional debut at the Mizuho Americas Open was just shy of a year ago. The title would crucially move her up from 22nd in the World Rankings to potentially get into Olympic position. Only five events remain after this week before the Olympic field is finalized. In order to qualify for Paris, Zhang needs to be one of the top four Americans inside the top 15 in the Rolex rankings. While Korda and Lilia Vu hold the top two spots in the world, it is a logjam of Americans near 15th. Megan Khang is the third and final player currently qualified (14th), while Alison Lee (16th), Allisen Corpuz (19th), and Angel Yin (21st) are ahead of Zhang.

However, like Korda’s emphasis on staying present, Zhang views Sunday as another learning opportunity in the early stages of a long career.

“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,” Zhang said. “Even if I’m not hitting it great, just learning how to commit to everything is the most important. That’s all I have going forward. If the ball works, it works. If it doesn’t, we still have lots of room to improve on. By all means, I’m not done. I’ve only just started.”

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