New Zealand golfer Lydia Ko has put herself in the running to claim the first golf major of the year on the LPGA Tour after a scintillating opening nine holes in her final round at the ANA Inspiration.

Heading into the day four, Ko sat eight shots behind leader Patty Tavatanakit from Thailand. However, she hit five birdies and eagle on her way to a seven-under front nine on the Rancho Mirage course.

Her front-nine 29 set the ANA nine-hole scoring record, and ties the lowest nine-hole score at any major championship.

Ko then hit two further birdies to begin her back nine before recording another on the 15th hole to move to 10-under and within two shots of Tavatanakit with one hole to play in her round.

Ko currently sits five shots ahead of four players tied for third place at 11-under.

Tavatanakit is doing well to hold off Ko’s charge as she sits at four-under after 15 holes in her final round.

Earlier in the tournament, Ko had posted three steady but unspectacular rounds of two-under, three-under and one-under, so this outburst of form has come somewhat out of the blue.

Ko has kicked off her 2021 season in the same way she ended last year: consistent and constantly in the hunt for the title, but not quite able to break her winning drought of almost three years.

After three consecutive top 10 finishes on the LPGA Tour, Ko struggled last week at the Kia Classic where she ended up in a tie for 26th following a rough start to the tournament.

The ANA Inspiration holds a special place in Ko’s heart, following her win in 2016 where she became the youngest ever two-time major champion.

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