New Zealand's golfing prodigy Lydia Ko recovered from a mixed start to her final 18 holes of the $US1.5 million Thailand Open to match her best round of the tournament at the Siam Country Club in Chonburi today.
The 15-year-old made the ideal start by birdieing the first but dropped shots either side of another birdie on the par-3 fourth suggested the world's leading amateur was constructing another frustrating round after she teed off in a share of 19th.
However, Ko was flawless from then on and signed for a composed 3-under 69 which left her in a tie for 14th at 5-under - a fine effort considering the quality of the field.
In a dramatic finale, Thailand's 17-year-old rising star Ariya Jutanugarn squandered an opportunity to win on home soil when a triple bogey on the 18th gifted South Korea's Inbee Park an unlikely one stroke victory.
Jutanugarn, who gathered momentum from the midway point of the tournament and then stunned the gallery with an ace on the par-3 12th today, was on track for the biggest win of her fledgling career until she took an eight on the last to slip to 11-under.
World No 1 and two-time defending champion Yani Tseng made the biggest strides on the final day, climbing from 24th to a tie for third by equalling the course record with a 9-under 63 - a 12 shot improvement on a shoddy opening round but not enough to claim the title a third time.
Ko's five birdies matched her collection on day one and represented a significant improvement on her previous round, a 2-over 74 that effectively sabotaged her chances of recording a top-10 finish.
She had trouble off the tee yesterday, hitting only nine of 14 fairways, but the classy right hander was more precise with the driver today, landing off target only once.
The Korean-born Aucklander was tackling the LPGA and Ladies European Tour-sanctioned event for the first time and stuck to the task admirably despite a tortuous playing and travel schedule.
Ko headed to Asia the morning after finishing third in the $US1.2m Australian Open at Royal Canberra last Sunday, an impressive result seven days after she became the first Kiwi to win the New Zealand Open at Clearwater.
A guest appearance at the NZPGA Championship at The Hills in Queenstown now looms from Thursday and once that assignment is completed she returns - briefly - to the lifestyle of an average teenage student by finally making it to class at Pinehurst School on Auckland's North Shore.
She is back on the road in April for the LPGA Lotte Championship in Hawaii.
- © Fairfax NZ News