Lee Mi-Rim runs away with LPGA Kia Classic

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Los Angeles (AFP) - South Korean Lee Mi-Rim fired seven birdies in a seven-under par 65 on Sunday to post a record-equalling triumph in the LPGA Kia Classic in Carlsbad, California.

Lee's 20-under par total of 278 matched the tournament record set by Cristie Kerr in 2015 -- when the American powered past Lee for a two-shot victory.

Determined not to be disappointed again, overnight leader Lee opened her round with a birdie and birdied every other hole on the front nine as she pulled away from the field.

She finished six strokes in front of compatriot Ryu So-Yeon, who carded a 66, and American Austin Ernst, who posted a 67.

"I was a little nervous, but I made it," said Lee, who also added birdies at 15 and 16 before she was done.

Lee said her ball-striking was better this year than it was two years ago, when she couldn't hold on to her third-round lead.

She claimed her third LPGA Tour victory and her first since winning twice in her rookie season of 2014.

Her total could have been even more impressive. At 16 she left an eagle attempt short, and she had a good look at a long birdie at the last.

Throughout much of the round it was Ryu giving chase.

She started the day five-strokes off Lee's lead, but pulled within three shots with three holes to play.

Although she was unable to convert several birdie attempts on the back nine, world number five Ryu said she was encouraged by her performance.

"I think everything is right there," Ryu said. "I just need to keep it patient and need to trust myself I'm good. Even though I haven't won any tournament I just cannot really blame anything. I felt like everything is pretty great."

Ernst had five birdies in her bogey-free effort. She started the day four off the lead and said she kept an eye on the scoreboard -- where she saw Lee racing away from the field.

"She was at 20-under," Ernst said. "I knew at that point you're basically playing for second place unless she does something coming down the stretch.

"My game was really solid. Today was really a solid round of golf. Hit a bunch of greens. Gave myself a lot of the good looks."