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Korda shoots 69 to put herself in position for record-setting sixth straight win on LPGA Tour

Nelly Korda Nelly Korda - The Canadian Press

CLIFTON, N.J. (AP) — Nelly Korda is going to have some work to do to win a record sixth straight LPGA Tour title, especially with the way Rose Zhang is playing.

Korda shot a relatively mistake-free 3-under 69 early in the first round of the Cognizant Founders Cup on Thursday and then could only watch as the 20-year-old Zhang tied the tournament record with a 63 in the afternoon to take the lead.

In her winning streak, Korda has never trailed by more than eight strokes after the opening round. The 25-year-old was six back in this one with a slew of players ahead of her heading into the second round at the Upper Montclair Country Club.

Rain was in the forecast the next two days.

Brooke Henderson of Smiths Falls, Ont., shot a 1-under-71 and is tied for 45th. Maude-Aimee Leblanc of Sherbrooke, Que., is one shot back of Henderson and is tied for 67th. Savannah Grewal of Mississauga, Ont., shot five-over-par and is tied for 133rd place.

“There are still three more days,” said Korda, who had four birdies and a bogey. “You still have a lot of things that you — I know the weather is not supposed to be great and there is just different factors that go into the rest of the tournament. So it’s definitely nice to get a good round in. You know, still a long, long ways away from Sunday.”

Zhang also has to be a concern after needing only 25 putts in posting the best professional round of her career. The two-time NCAA champion from Stanford won New Jersey in her professional debut at the Mizuho Americas Open about a year ago. She has not won since but she played like a champion Thursday, a bogey-free round that included nine birdies.

Zhang had a two-shot lead over Madelene Sagstrom of Sweden, who set the tournament record in 2022. Leona Maguire of Ireland, Stephanie Kyriacou of Australia and Narin An of South Korea were three shots back and one ahead of Lindsey Weaver-Wright and Mel Reid of England.

“It was almost just auto-command kind of golf,” said Zhang, whose has missed two cuts in six starts this year. "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,” she added. “I was able to free myself up a little bit, which was really nice to see some shots go in, especially on the greens. I was able to get some putting momentum in, so it was really nice.”

Korda, who fulfilled a childhood dream by walking on the red carpet at the Met Gala on Monday, played with defending champion Jin Young Ko (72) and 2022 winner Minjee Lee (70). They were followed by about 100 fans, who politely cheered the players. Among the fans were five women wearing black T-shirts with “Everyone Watches Nelly Korda” on the front.

Sagstrom, who finished third two years ago, had six birdies, an eagle and a bogey playing in the first threesome off the back nine. She finished 10th last year.

“This golf course first of all suits my eye really well,” Sagstrom said. “I’ve been playing around with the ball flight a little bit. My coach, Hans (Larsson), is in town. This is the third year he’s here, too. We love the golf course.”

Hannah Green, who has won twice on tour this year, including the JM Eagle Los Angeles Championship in the last tour event, also was at 69 along with Lydia Ko, who needs one more win to make the LPGA Hall of Fame.


AP golf: