Golf: Red-hot Lydia Ko soars to second-place finish at ANA Inspiration

Kiwi golfer Lydia Ko has stormed home with an astonishing, record-equalling final round to finish second at the ANA Inspiration in California.

Starting the day tied for seventh, the 23-year-old carded a jaw-dropping 10-under 62 to tie the Mission Hills course record, pushing overnight runaway leader Patty Tavatanik to the limit and coming agonisingly close to clinching her third Major title.

Thailand's Tavatanik finished 18-under overall, with Ko just two shots adrift at 16-under, as the Kiwi showcased the kind of vintage form that once had her atop the world rankings.

Currently sitting at No.22, Ko continues a resurgence, with her third top-10 finish in four tournaments so far this year and her best finish at a Major since the 2016 PGA Championship.

Hunting her first Major since her win at this same tournament five years ago, Ko reeled off an astonishing six birdies and an eagle through the front nine to pull within four shots of Tavatanakit, who began with an eight-shot advantage.

Ko's stellar tee shot on the 11th set up a putt for eagle that fell just short, although the resulting birdie - her third straight - saw her close the gap on Tavatanakit to just two shots.

After a par on the 12th, Ko found the rough from her tee shot on the 13th, then the bunker with her following shot, but still managed to salvage par.

After Tavatantik had birdied to restore a three-shot advantage, Ko recovered from a shaky tee shot on the 15th to sink a difficult putt and again reduce the Thai's lead to two shots.

Ko narrowly missed birdie on the 17th, while Tatanakavit came perilously close to dropping a shot, with her putt for par on the fifth circling the rim, before falling.

The par five offered one final chance for Ko to steal a shot back, but her long-range putt for birdie cruelly faded to the left.

Reflecting on a dramatic day, Ko insists she never gave up on chasing down leader Tavatanakit, despite the daunting deficit.

"I got off to a really good start," she says. "Being three under after two is never a bad way to start your round.

"I think I got a couple of lucky breaks, but my game was really solid and I felt like I gave myself a good round at it, but maybe Patty [Tatanakavit] was just a little bit too far away."

There's also an NZ connection to the winner, with Tatanavik coached by former Kiwi PGA golfer Grant Waite.

The two-time Major winner says her impressive start to 2021 comes down to rediscovering her love for the game and she's eager to keep that momentum going.

"I feel like my game is trending in the right direction," she notes. "I've really just tried to have fun out there and I think that's such a big key for me.

"When you're enjoying it, I think everything kind of follows."

Ko will now travel to Hawaii for the Lotte Championship, which starts April 16 (NZ time).