Rose Zhang during the 3rd round of the Mizuho Americas Open
Rose Zhang lines up her shot from the 16th tee. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images via LPGA)

Rose Zhang Takes First Tournament Lead of Pro Career at Mizuho Americas Open

Jersey City, N.J. - From her first professional start to her first pro cut made, it has been a week of firsts for Rose Zhang.  Now, women's golf's newest professional can add one more first to the list--first professional tournament lead.

After 54 holes at the Mizuho Americas Open, Zhang has staked herself a two stroke lead heading into the final day of play.

"I was expecting myself to scramble into the cut.  That was the priority for me," Zhang said of her tournament so far.  "But I've been enjoying every moment.  I feel like the weekend is something that I've been--I've experienced before but as an amateur, so obviously it is a little different."

Zhang's day included six birdies with no bogies and included highlight reel tee shoots on both the 14th and 16th holes.  Zhang's tee shot on the scenic, par three, 14th set her up to birdie the hole while her tee shot on the par four, 16th put her in position for an eagle.  However, while she would gain the lead out right on 16, a missed first putt meant that Zhang would have to settle for a birdie and smaller lead.

"I felt very comfortable with that golf shot," Zhang said of her tee shot on 16.  "I knew the ball was going away from the water no matter what I do. The only miss that you potentially have is left , and it's not a great miss."

Zhang continued, "You know, I just figured out, hit a little high, small cut or the feeling of it, and then see where the ball goes from there.  I just had the confidence just to full send it and it went well."

As the leader, Zhang will be teeing off in the final group on Sunday for the first time as a pro.  Of that milestone, Zhang said, "tomorrow (Sunday) I'll be just trying to figure out what it feels like to be in the final group, navigate my way through, and I'm sure by the end of the day I'll be able to, you know, just build my character more."

Sitting behind Zhang on the leaderboard, Atthaya Thitikul, Aditi Ashok, and Cheyenne Knight ended the third day in Jersey City in a three-way for second at 9-under for the tournament.  Thitikul and Ashok finished with identical 4-under 68s for the day while Knight carded a 2-under 70.  Minjee Lee went into the club house with an even par 72 on Saturday to stay at -7 for the tournament and finish her day in fifth place.

Wayne, New Jersey native, Marina Alex currently sits in a four way tie for 35th with a score of even par for the tournament.

On the American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) side of the Mizuho Americas Open, Anna Davis and Yana Wilson are tied for first with 110 points while New Jersey's Katie Li moved into sixth place with 104 points.

"I just want to be as focused as possible, not really have my emotions sway too much during my round, and just keep my head steady," Wilson said of going into the final round in the lead.

The Mizuho Americas Open concludes Sunday with golfers set to tee of at 8:47 a.m. at Liberty National Golf Club.

Christopher Shannon