In Lydia Ko's positive mind, she has got the bad stuff out of the way as she prepares to defend her title at the first women's golf major of the season, the ANA Inspiration.

For just the second time in her three and a bit years as a professional, Ko missed the cut at last week's Kia Classic in California.

That missed cut ended a run of decent results - three top 10s on the trot - that looked ominously reassuring as she looks to resdiscover the form that propelled her to two major titles and 75 weeks as the world women's No1.

While not quite nose-diving, Ko's 2016 went into a flat spin late in the season and she jettisoned her coach, caddy and clubs as she sought to get her game flying again.


She has made a remarkable recovery in the ball-striking department since abandoning David Leadbetter's A Swing concept but last week her often mercurial putting was the rogue element.

Ko can run hot and cold with the putter - last year her ANA victory was built on some stunningly good bladework on the slick greens at Mission Hills Country Club in California - and she knows what is bad one day can be great the next.

"Hopefully I was saving it up for this week," Ko said of her missed putts last week.

Putting aside, she felt her overall game was starting to get back into the right shape for major golf.

"I actually hit my drivers really well [last week]. You know, irons weren't like fantastic but they weren't far off. But I was just struggling with the putter - it's been very on and off, but mostly not on, the past few weeks.

"But I'm just going to try to erase last week. I know that even though I did miss the cut, there were still a lot of positives and you know, the things that we've been trying to work on in the off-season, I think they are starting to show a little bit by little and I think those are the confidence boosters and not only just results."

Ko made the most of the rare missed cut by chilling out and eating lots of shabu-shabu, a Japanese hotpot dish.

Lydia Ko takes a dunk in Poppie's Pond while celebrating winning the ANA Inspiration major last year. Photo / AP
Lydia Ko takes a dunk in Poppie's Pond while celebrating winning the ANA Inspiration major last year. Photo / AP

"At least I missed the cut at a very nice place. I hung out, watched a movie with another player that evening, and obviously I need to think everything through coming into this week. I just wanted to have a day off and just chill out.

"There's actually a really, really good shabu-shabu place like 10 minutes from here. So I said, 'hey, I've got one more day to eat shabu-shabu. I just tried to think positively. I'm just going to think last week was just an off-week and just move on."

Ko says there is some pressure on her as defending champion at an event where only Annika Sorenstam has won back-to-back titles.

"Obviously you know, being the defending champion, there is a little bit of pressure but then at the same time, I think it gave me the confidence to say that I can play well at this course. Especially because I had not had the greatest results prior to winning the ANA Inspiration."

And then there's the good feelings that came with the winner's celebratory leap into Poppie's Pond beside the 18th green.

"I think everybody dreams of hopefully being able to take [the leap into] Poppie's Pond, especially since Amy Alcott started the tradition.

"Even though you dream of hopefully taking that leap, you don't know what type of leap you're going to do: Are you going to walk in, are you going to do a long jump, a small one, a belly flop, who knows? There's just so many. It's not something you practice in your pool trying to say, 'hey, this is my jump into Poppie's Pond'.

"I just saw the New Zealand flag towards the position I was jumping and I did the heart to kind of show them the love and the thanks to all the fans.

"I didn't actually realise I held my nose going down. I might be one of the only players, if the only player, to hold my nose. I must have been scared of the water, you know, going up my nose."

Whether she'll make that splash again will depend on how many putts she dunks.