Defending champion Ssu-Chia Cheng moved right into the mix at the Xiamen International Ladies Open with a course record equalling eight under par 64 in the third round at Orient (Xiamen) Golf and Country Club in China on Saturday.

The 17-year-old Ladies European Tour rookie professional from Chinese Taipei matched the 64 recorded by Jiyai Shin at the same venue in the 2006 China Ladies Open.

Starting out with a pair of birdies on the first and second holes, where she made putts of 10 and 23 feet respectively, Cheng then birdied the par-5 fourth for an outward total of three under.

A run of five straight birdies on the back nine began at the par-3 11th where she played a 6-iron to nine feet. She then made a putt of nine feet on 12, before hitting a hybrid to four feet on hole 13. At the 14th, Cheng putted in from the fringe and she made a putt of six feet on 15 before finishing with three steady pars for her best ever score.

“I didn’t realise I had five birdies in a row. I thought I had a par on 14, so I didn’t think about it,” said Cheng. “On the last three holes I had some pressure because I thought, I’m seven under, if I shoot eight under it can be my best score. I had a birdie chance on 17 but I didn’t make it. It will give me more confidence for sure.”

Cheng claimed her maiden LET win as an amateur in the 54-hole Xiamen Open 11 months ago and she has a fantastic opportunity to retain the title now that the tournament has been extended to four rounds.

She feels that she has struggled to adjust to the lifestyle and culture so far in her rookie year, despite sitting 21st on the order of merit, with a best finish of sixth at the RACV Ladies Masters. “A lot of travelling and jet lag. Food and the first couple of months there was nobody I knew on tour. It’s been a bit weird because of the new environment but now it’s getting better.”

With several events still to play this season, Cheng has earned 49,836 euros less than top ranked rookie Nanna Koerstz Madsen from Denmark and with first prize in Xiamen worth 45,000 euros, there will be a close battle to become the 2015 LET Rookie of the Year.