Ruffels rises as Zhang wins Cognizant Founders Cup

    There was no hope of catching fast-finishing winner Rose Zhang or second-placed Madelene Sagstrom, who had distanced themselves even before the final round began.

    But 24-year-old Ruffels was best of the rest as she shot a closing one-under 71 at Upper Montclair Country Club to finish at nine under and collect $A305,000 in prizemoney as she continued her rapid progress in the professional ranks.

    Ruffels earned her spot on the main tour this year by topping the 2023 Epson Tour money list in a season with three wins. She already had a tie for third at the Se Ri Pak Championship in March among seven previous starts this season.

    American rookie star Zhang put together four birdies in the last five holes to post a closing six-under 66 and reach 24-under, winning by two shots.

    Sweden’s Sagstrom began the day with a one-shot lead and extended it to three shots after the 13th hole but she ran cold late in her round as she posted a 69.

    Zhang’s triumph ended Nelly Korda’s personal five-tournament winning streak. Korda was trying to become the first player in LPGA history to win six consecutive starts, but she posted 73 for the second straight day and tied for seventh at seven-under.

    Gabi Ruffels finished in third alone at the Cognizant Founders Cup on the LPGA Tour. PHOTO: Getty Images.

    Australia’s World No.9 Minjee Lee (69) also tied for seventh, two shots behind Ruffels, with countrywomen Hannah Green (71) and Steph Kyriacou (72) a further two shots back and tied 18th, while Sarah Kemp (71) was tied 35th at two-under and Grace Kim (70) tied 46th at one-under.

    “It almost felt like match play (duelling with Sagstrom in the final group),” said Zhang, who won her professional debut 11 months ago in nearby Jersey City.

    “I was telling my dad in the car (Saturday) 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. So, I had to really stay patient and find it in me to get it done.”

    The 31-year-old Sagstrom, ranked No.62 in the world, was also looking for her second career LPGA victory Sunday but could not match her rival down the stretch.

    “Just being in this position, this is what we all trying to do. We’re trying to feel these nerves,” the 31-year-old said. “I was nervous today. I chunked a chip on 1. Just pure nerves.

    “I think you’re not going to learn by not being here. And I mean, I played unbelievable golf this week. We’re the only two that’s been really low. I have to look at the positive. … My time will come.”

    © Golf Australia. All rights reserved.

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