LPGA Tour winner Madelene Sagstrom set the new 18-hole tournament scoring record on Sunday at the Buick LPGA Shanghai, blitzing Qizhong Garden Golf Club with a bogey-free, 9-under 63 to ultimately finish in a tie for eighth. The 30-year-old began the day in a tie for 38th at 3-under after carding scores of 71-72-70 in the first three rounds. She struck early, making back-to-back birdies on the par-4 10th and par-3 11th holes to move to 5-under overall, and then rattled off three consecutive birdies on 14, 15 and 16 to sit at 5-under on the day through seven holes. Sagstrom grabbed another birdie on No. 18 to turn in 30, setting a new nine-hole tournament record for the Buick LPGA Shanghai and tying her season-best nine-hole score.

Now at 9-under for the tournament, Sagstrom began to cool off on her final nine, picking up a birdie on No. 2 before making another on the par-4 5th hole to sit at 11-under overall with four holes to play. Sagstrom then made three consecutive pars on holes 6, 7 and 8, carding one final birdie on the par-5 9th hole to post her new career-best final-round score and first round of 63 or better since the first round of the 2022 Cognizant Founders Cup.

After what’s been a ho-hum season for the Epson Tour graduate, today’s round felt like a breath of fresh air for the Swede, one that she’s had to wait for maybe a little bit longer than she would’ve liked.

“I really like what Max Homa said a few months ago. You’re either really close to winning the Masters, or you’re never going to play golf again. I feel like golf is that way,” said Sagstrom, who picked up just her third top-10 finish of the season in the People’s Republic of China. “One day, it feels like you’re going to be unstoppable, and the next day, you can’t make contact with the ball. I think when you have days like this, you just have to make sure you get on the run and just keep going.

“I find when you go low, especially on the front nine, it’s very easy to get defensive and hold on for dear life. I didn’t tell Shane (her caddie), but I kept telling myself, keep pushing, keep putting yourself out there and keep trying to go low. I wanted to make it a great day. So, I was really just trying to push the pedal.”

This week at the Buick LPGA Shanghai marked Sagstrom’s 18th start of the 2023 season. She has missed six total cuts and has recorded six top-15 finishes, including her tie for eighth in Shanghai. Coming into the week, she was ranked 62nd in the Race for the CME Globe, two spots shy of the top-60 cutoff that would automatically qualify Sagstrom for the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship. Not only did her Sunday 63 vault her up the leaderboard 30 spots into the top 10, it also moved her up in the Race, and Sagstrom now sits at 53rd in the points standings, seven spots inside the top 60.

While she will need a couple more solid finishes to remain in or better her current position in the Race to the CME Globe, this week’s final round has bolstered Sagstrom’s confidence immensely as she eyes the final four regular-season events of the 2023 season. She’ll only be competing in three of them, electing to skip the TOTO Japan Classic this year, but her Sunday 63 did wonders for her self-belief, something that Sagstrom feels has been lacking since her performance at the Solheim Cup, an event that didn’t leave her feeling as confident as it did some of her counterparts.

“To be honest, I think Solheim (Cup) this time actually kind of threw me a bit the other way. I had a big conversation with my team after. I want to be somebody (the team) can lean on, and I haven’t had that position in the three that I played,” said Sagstrom. “For me, it’s more probably mental than anything. Like really believing in my game and trusting that my game is good enough. I feel like I have a little bit of growth still to do both within my game and in my own confidence and how I view myself and my own game.

“(Today) I think the biggest thing is the fact that I didn’t back down on the back nine. I didn’t settle for good. I kept pushing to be greater. I think that also knowing that I can turn pretty average golf on a Thursday round to really good golf on a Sunday. Also, momentum is huge. It’s great confidence. Putting was a huge confidence today.”

By Nadeem Faisal Baiga