(ATTN: ADDS comments in paras 9-13)
RANCHO MIRAGE, California, April 3 (Yonhap) -- South Korean rookie Chun In-gee finished second in the LPGA Tour's first major of the season in California on Sunday.
Chun shot 11-under 277 to end one shot behind champion Lydia Ko at the ANA Inspiration at Mission Hills Country Club's Dinah Shore Tournament Course here in Rancho Mirage.
Chun, who started Sunday one stroke behind the overnight leader Lexi Thompson at nine-under, shot a final round of two-under 70 with three birdies and one bogey.
Chun, who won last year's U.S. Women's Open as a non-member of the tour, is playing in her first full LPGA season.
This was Chun's first start in a month, after a back injury sidelined her for the past three tournaments. She was injured in a bizarre incident at Singapore's Changi Airport in early March, when a traveling bag belonging to the father of fellow LPGA player Jang Ha-na tumbled down an escalator and hit Chun in the lower back.
While a controversy brewed over an apology, or lack thereof, from Jang's camp, both players said after the first round here that the incident was now behind them. Jang, who has two victories this season, finished tied for 36th at two-under.
In the final round, Chun parred the first eight holes before picking up her first birdie at the ninth. She followed it up with another birdie at the 10th to reach 11-under but lost a stroke at the 16th.
Chun birdied the par-five 18th but fell one behind Ko, the world No. 1 who had a bogey-free round of 69 Sunday.
Chun said afterward her back injury is now a thing of the past.
"I am taking away so much from this championship," she said. "I made a lot of difficult par saves over the first eight holes. The experience of staying patient throughout will go a long way toward helping my career."
She said she feels at "more than 90 percent" in terms of her health and shot-making; prior to the tournament, she said she was at 85 percent on those fronts.
Chun played her final round with Ko, who hit her third shot on the par-five 18th green to about a foot from the hole for the clinching birdie.
"It was such a spectacular shot, and I clapped for her, while I was standing next to her," Chun said. "I could see why she's the No. 1 player in the world. She seemed to enjoy the pressure and knows how to play her own game."
It was the second career major for Ko, a South Korean-born New Zealander, who has 12 LPGA titles overall.
She will retain her No. 1 ranking over South Korean Park In-bee, who tied for sixth here at eight-under. Park Sung-hyun, a Korean LPGA star playing on sponsor's exemptions, also finished at eight-under in her first major appearance, while veterans Ryu So-yeon and Lee Bo-mee tied for 10th at another stroke behind.
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