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Struggling Ko puts 'off week' behind her

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 28/03/2017
Lydia Ko, of New Zealand, watches her tee shot on the second hole during the final round of the LPGA Tour ANA Inspiration golf tournament at Mission Hills Country Club. © AP Photo/Gregory Bull Lydia Ko, of New Zealand, watches her tee shot on the second hole during the final round of the LPGA Tour ANA Inspiration golf tournament at Mission Hills Country Club.

Lydia Ko is dismissing last week's missed cut as an aberration as she readies for her title defence at the first women's golf major of the year.

Kiwi world No.1 Ko completed an unwanted build up to the ANA Inspiration in California when she fell short of the cut line at the KIA Classic. It was just the second missed cut of her professional career.

The 19-year-old isn't keen to dwell on that performance, the low point in a run of 14 tournaments without a title dating back to last July.

Instead, she is drawing on successive top-10 finishes in her three previous tournaments as evidence her game is coming together.

"I'm just going to think last week was just an off week and I'm going to move on," she told LPGA.com.

"I feel like my game is going in the right direction. I've had a few top-10 finishes in my last few events and that's been good for the confidence so I feel more comfortable."

Ko birdied the final hole at last year's ANA Inspiration to win by a stroke, taking advantage of a late blowout from Thai rival Ariya Jutanugarn, who spurned a lead by closing with three straight bogeys.

World No.2 Jutanugarn has enjoyed a superior 12 months since, including a maiden major title at the Women's British Open.

She now sits within sight of ending Ko's 75-week reign at No.1 unless the Kiwi can rediscover her touch.

Ko says the rankings will be the furthest thing from her mind in the build up.

Instead, she'll adopt the same relaxed approach as 2016, when victory at the Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage made her the youngest two-time major champion in LPGA history.

"It's a good mindset for me to think of it as just another tournament. That's all I thought of last year," she said.

"It's important you don't feel extra pressure and you feel like you need to do something different to usual."

The only player to successfully defend her ANA Inspiration title is Swedish great Annika Sorenstam.

The tournament is the first of five majors.

Last year Ko went on to place second in the Women's LPGA Championship and third at the US Women's Open but then failed to crack the top-40 at the last two tournaments, encapsulating her fading form.

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