Yuka Saso Opens Strong at LPGA Founders Cup; Ko Jin-young stars

Yuka Saso of the Philippines hits her tee shot on the second hole during the first round of the Cognizant Founders Cup at Mountain Ridge Country Club on October 7, 2021 in West Caldwell, New Jersey. Sarah Stier / Getty Images / AFP

South Korea’s Ko Jin-young tied the lowest round of his career with a par-63 of eight under Thursday to take the lead when darkness stopped the first round of the LPGA Founders Cup.

Ko, the world number two, made nine birdies to a lone bogey on her maiden tour at Mountain Ridge Country Club in West Caldwell, New Jersey.

That put her three strokes ahead of Germany’s Sandra Gal when night fell with 30 players still on the field. A 90-minute morning fog delayed the completion of the first round until Friday.

In third place, with 67, were the American Nelly Korda, the best classified, the South Koreans Amy Yang and Ryu So-yeon, the Canadian Brooke Henderson, the French Perrine Delacour and the Filipino Yuka Saso.

Thailand’s Moriya Jutanugarn had the low round on the course at 3 under par with three holes remaining.

It was Ko’s 11th consecutive round in the 1960s, three short of equaling the all-time record set in 2005 by Sweden’s Annika Sorenstam.

“If I can, it will be a great honor,” Ko said of Sorenstam’s capture. “If not, it’s still fine.”

Ko is seeking his 10th career LPGA title and the third of the year after Dallas in July and Portland last month. He missed out last week and settled for sharing second place at the ShopRite Classic.

“I was a little sad Sunday,” Ko said. “Still, my putting was very good. I was thinking don’t be negative. Keep positive thinking.

“My putting today was not bad. I’m happy with how I played ”.

Ko opened with consecutive birdies and followed a birdie in the fifth par-3 with a bogey in the sixth.

He caught fire with three birdies to start the last nine and another three in a row starting at par 4 14.

Ko said he’s not so concerned with trying to catch up with Korda in the top spots as with staying consistent.

“My goal is to think shot by shot, not look at the scoreboard, put four or five less every day and look for victory,” Ko said.

Gal birdied the fifth and seventh par 3 holes and added birdies on the 11, 12 and 14 par 4 holes.

Tokyo Olympic champion Korda had six birdies and two bogeys in her first round since playing for Team USA in the Solheim Cup loss to Europe last month.

“I have to relax,” Korda said of his break. “I really needed it”.

Korda, seeking her seventh career LPGA title, clinched the world number one spot in June after winning her first major title at the PGA Women’s Championship.

“I go about my business in the same way,” Korda said. “I try to reach goals. Girls are still chasing me. I try to keep my foot on the gas, ”added Korda, the daughter of former Australian Open champion Petr Korda.

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