In a thrilling final round, 20-year-old Rose Zhang finished strong to claim her second LPGA title at the Cognizant Founders Cup

We're told that to grow the women's professional game fan base, we need good stories, stand-out performances and players that will transcend the sport. So whilst the story at the start of the week had focused on Nelly Korda, her Met Gala appearance and her chance of making six straight wins, by the end of the week we were back with arguably the second most talked about female golfer at present. Rose Zhang.

Korda may have played her way out of contention on Saturday with a one-over-par 73 and matched the score on Sunday to finish in a tie for seventh, but that did not mean that the final round was any less compelling to watch. In fact, it turned into a back nine shootout between Zhang and third round leader Madelene Sagstrom.

If only this battle hadn't coincided with Rory McIlroy putting on a masterclass at the Wells Fargo Championship on his way to claim his 26th PGA Tour victory, this exciting finale at the Cognizant Founders Cup would have had the eyeballs on it, that is so deserved.

Drama, excitement, nerves and some phenomenal play were all a golf fan could hope for, especially as the women's game strives for greater recognition and the crowning of new global stars.

Cognizant Founders Cup - Final Round round-up

With four birdies in her last five holes, Zhang became a two-time LPGA Tour winner at the 2024 Cognizant Founders Cup. The 20-year-old added another win under her belt in less than a year on the LPGA Tour. In her professional debut and first start as a professional on the LPGA Tour, Zhang won the 2023 Mizuho Americas Open and accepted immediate LPGA Tour Membership.

Similar to the second and third rounds, Zhang and Sagstrom put on a clinic, maintaining at least a 10-shot lead over the field. Zhang started the day just one back from Sagstrom and opened her final round with three consecutive pars in her first three holes. The 2023 rookie carded back-to-back birdies on holes four and five before remaining quiet through her next eight holes. She again grabbed a pair of birdies on 14 and 15, adding in a par on the par-4 16th, and another pair of birdies on holes 17 and 18. With a final-round 66, Zhang finished her run at Upper Montclair Country Club at 24-under-par, a new 72-hole tournament scoring record at the course.

Watch final round highlights

“Honestly today has been a roller coaster. I think from the start of the day just coming out, it was raining, it was cold. I knew it was going to be a grind,” said Zhang.

“I think coming out I had those expectations of today I really have to find it in me to even play well, let alone win. And Madelene has been playing rock solid golf. She's been blowing away the field so just been trying to keep up. I think that was the mindset going in. I didn't have any expectations because I knew coming out here there was going to be a lot of golf to play.

"A lot of mistakes could have happened, can happen, and I just have to be able to take whatever I have out here. So that was the whole day. Starting from one, hit the pin and definitely did not expect that, but it was a nice little save. And going from there was able to hit some close. Gave me a little bit of momentum just in my own round.”

Zhang’s statistics for the week proved just how good her game was this week; she ranked first in most birdies (27), most greens hit in regulation (61/72) and least number of putts (109) amongst the field for the week of the tournament.  Her four rounds in the 60s mark the first time she has done so since becoming an LPGA Tour Member.

Sagstrom trending in the right direction

Runner-up Sagstrom started her round with a bogey to tie it up with Zhang early in the day.  The Swede bounced back, following up the bogey with a quick birdie on the second. She made two pars before carding a set of birdies on five and six. Sagstrom made one more birdie on the par-3 8th to make the turn at three-under-par and two shots clear of trailing Zhang. She added another birdie to the scorecard on hole 12 to extend her lead to three shots headed into the last six holes. With a bogey on 16, Sagstrom slipped into a tie with Zhang with two holes remaining.  Sagstrom made two pars in her last two holes as Zhang birdied the last two to win the event.

“It's hard because this week felt easy. Like it felt easy to play really good this week which it doesn't always,” said Sagstrom.

“Watching Rose, she was hitting lovely golf slots. We talked about it in the car on the way back. When you play with players that are playing good you kind of get into the same momentum yourself. It's really encouraging and it really helped my game tremendously yesterday playing with her, and today, too. We were going back and forth, hitting a lot of good shots. So I think it kind of just puts you in a good place. You see somebody striking the ball nicely and making putts, it really just encourages you to do better yourself.”

In her eighth year on the LPGA Tour, Sagstrom had one of her best finishes on the LPGA Tour on Sunday, and her first top-2 finish since the 2021 AIG Women’s Open. With her finish this week, she earns her 20th career top-10 finish and is projected to jump from 40th to within the top 15 in the Race to the CME Globe.

Next up: Zhang looks to defend her maiden title at the Mizuho Americas Open just 21 miles away at Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City, N.J.