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Sagstrom holds on to lead as Korda fades at Founders Cup

Madelene Sagstrom leads the LPGA Founders Cup by one shot after shooting a six-under-par 66 (ELSA)
Madelene Sagstrom leads the LPGA Founders Cup by one shot after shooting a six-under-par 66 (ELSA)

Sweden's Madelene Sagstrom fired a second consecutive six-under-par 66 to take a one-shot lead at the LPGA Founders Cup on Saturday as Nelly Korda's bid for a sixth straight win faded.

Sagstrom, who started the third round tied at the top of the leaderboard with Rose Zhang, played flawlessly to reel off six birdies in a bogey-free round at the Upper Montclair Country Club in Clifton, New Jersey.

That left Sagstrom alone on 19 under heading into Sunday's final round, with Zhang lurking on her shoulder on 18 under.

Zhang stayed in touch with a battling five-under-par 67 that included seven birdies and two bogeys.

Sagstrom said playing alongside the in-form Zhang on Saturday had helped her round.

"When you play with somebody that's playing well, I kind I felt like we kind of fed off each other all day," Sagstrom said.

"She was hitting good shots and I was I hitting good shots; she was hitting good putts and I was hitting good putts.

"It was overall a very steady round. In a good spot for tomorrow."

Zhang meanwhile returned the compliment, describing the experience of playing with Sagstrom as "incredible."

"I was just seeing a clinic put on by Madelene," Zhang said. "We had a good time. We were having small talks and it was just an enjoyable time to both play well and have each other's company.

"I've always admired Madelene's game. She's been out here for a while and she's a veteran; I'm just trying to learn and see how she's doing it."

Barring a miraculous final day charge, Sunday's fourth round looks set to be a straight shoot-out between Sagstrom and Zhang.

- 'Stupid, silly mistakes' -

The nearest challengers to Zhang are world number one Korda, South Korea's Kim Sei-Young and Australia's Gabriela Ruffels, who are a hefty 10 shots behind the American on eight under.

The 25-year-old Korda started this week's tournament fresh from equalling Annika Sorenstam and Nancy Lopez's all-time record win streak of five in five starts following victory at last month's Chevron Championship.

But Korda, who started the third round four shots off the lead, will now have to make up 11 strokes to overhaul Sagstrom on Sunday.

The American star was always struggling to generate momentum on Saturday, making a bogey on the first and carding three more bogeys before the turn with two birdies.

Korda cut down the error count down the stretch, but was only able to make one more birdie to finish with a one-over-par 73.

"It was just kind of poor in all aspects," Korda said of her round. "Yesterday was good in everything and today was poor in everything, so that's just pretty much golf for you.

"Just made too many stupid, silly mistakes, which was unfortunate."

Korda conceded that those errors were likely to have ended her chances of victory, admitting there was now a "massive gap" between her and the leading duo of Zhang and Sagstrom.

However she said the occasional off-day was inevitable.

"I've played really good golf the past couple months. I'm human, so I'm going to have bad days," she said.

"It was just one of those days where it felt like a constant battle and didn't really play too well, but I fought until the end."

rcw/bb