It’s been 2 years and 6 months since Jin Young Ko won the 2019 Cognizant Founders Cup, an extra-long title defense due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But 928 days later and the outcome is exactly the same. Ko, No. 2 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings, tied her season-low round of 8-under 63 in the first round of the 2021 Cognizant Founders Cup, being played for the first time at Mountain Ridge Country Club in West Caldwell, N.J.
Ko was stung from last week’s performance, a second-place showing at the ShopRite LPGA Classic after she was tied for the lead heading into the final round. She worked hard to put that disappointment behind her and bring a fresh game to North Jersey.
“I had great round today. I was little sad last week on Sunday, so I was thinking like keep it all for my putting this week, and I had great putting today,” said Ko. “I got nine birdies today and one bogey, but, yeah, still pretty good.”
Ko said her goal for the week is to average less than 30 putts per round, a benchmark she shattered on Thursday with just 25 putts. “It's going to be like 4-, 5-under each day, so it's going to be a win,” she said with a smile.
Germany’s Sandra Gal got off to a blazing start in the final event of her medical extension, carding a bogey-free 66 on Thursday to hold solo second. It is her best round since a first-round 66 at the 2019 Walmart NW Arkansas Championship, and her first round in the 60s since the first round of the 2020 Trust Golf Women’s Scottish Open.
“I feel very good. I came into the tournament striking it really nicely,” said Gal, who has been sidelined on and off for the last three years due to a battle with dormant Lyme Disease. “It's kind of been building up the last few weeks, but until you see the results on the course you just got to play, play, play.”
Six players are tied for third at -4, including Rolex Rankings No. 1 Nelly Korda, playing in her first stroke-play event since the AIG Women’s Open in late August. She is joined by Brooke Henderson, who sprinted to the 18th tee to ensure that her group could finish before play was called due to darkness.
“We tried to get our round finished and I'm glad we did,” said Henderson, who converted a two-putt par to finish her round at 6:50 p.m. “It was definitely dark coming up 18 and on the putting green I was really just counting on the pace to know how hard to hit it.”
Heavy fog caused a 90-minute delay on Thursday morning and play was suspended due to darkness at 6:34 p.m. with 30 players still to finish their rounds. First-round play will resume Friday at 7:15 a.m., with the second round beginning at 7:30 a.m.