LYTHAM ST ANNES (England) • To watch Thidapa Suwannapura swing a golf club is to witness a minor miracle. Three years ago, the Thai broke a part of her back and required surgery on her spine. It was unclear if she would ever play the game - which she picked up when she was five - again.
Not only did she manage to return after intensive rehabilitation, but the 25-year-old has also shown she is able to compete with the best in the world. She secured her first LPGA Tour title at last month's aptly-named Marathon Classic and has flourished at this week's Women's British Open. The world No. 95 fired seven birdies against two bogeys for a five-under 67 yesterday. That put her at six-under 210 and pushed her high up the leaderboard at press time.
Despite her best efforts, a second Tour win for the Bangkok native may be unlikely given compatriot and overnight leader Pornanong Phatlum began the third round at 10 under with the trio of England's Georgia Hall, Australian Minjee Lee and Japan's Mamiko Higa one stroke behind.
Among yesterday's early finishers who made moves up the leaderboard were former world No. 1s Feng Shanshan (69 and 211) and Cristie Kerr (68 and 212).
Among the surprising absentees were Olympic champion Park In-bee and Major winners Anna Nordqvist, Karrie Webb and Danielle Kang. All missed the cut.
Thidapa, who turned pro in 2011, is one of six Thais who made the weekend cut at Royal Lytham and St Annes. The rise of women's golf in the Kingdom is led by the Jutanugarns. Top-ranked Ariya is 22 and has 10 Tour victories, including two Majors. Her older sister Moriya, 24, has earned almost US$3.5 million (S$4.8 million) on the US-based circuit.
There are 12 Thais on the Tour, behind only South Korea (23) and the United States. Pornanong, 28, was the first to take up regular membership when she joined in 2009.
After her second round, she said: "Moriya and Ariya, they inspire all the Thai golfers a lot. We know we can do it and we can win tournaments on Tour. So everyone just tries to work harder."
WOMEN'S BRITISH OPEN
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