Ruffels rises as Zhang claims LPGA Tour victory

Rising Australian golf star Gabriela Ruffels has achieved the best result of her rookie LPGA Tour season, finishing outright third in the Cognizant Founders Cup in New Jersey.

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.

Rose Zhang celebrates with the trophy after her win. (AP PHOTO)

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 after her strong start 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.

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.

Ruffels said she learned a lot from the week playing on a tough course where there were plenty of bogeys as well as birdies.

"I just had to hang tough mentally and I was very proud I did that," she said.

Ruffels was also asked what it would mean to compete for Australia at the Olympics and said "the world".

But she hastened to point out the Paris Games were a real long shot, with world No.7 Hannah Green and world No.9 Minjee Lee set to fill Australia's top-two ranked spots.

To qualify, Ruffels would otherwise need to be in the world top 15 and she started the week as No.83.

"So Australia is a pretty strong country and it's cool to see because I have looked up to those girls," she said.

"But hopefully one day, maybe another year."

with Reuters