Ogilvy piling up wins in big tournaments

Published 9:39 pm Tuesday, January 13, 2009

KAPALUA, Hawaii — Geoff Ogilvy was in good company, and hardly anyone recognized him.
The former U.S. Open champion had played the first two rounds of the Mercedes-Benz Championship with only one bogey on his card to take the lead going into the weekend, but he strolled out of the Ritz-Carlton at Kapalua without anyone turning a head, reaching for a camera or asking for an autograph.
It’s a wonder they even recognized him.
His wife, Juli, was elegantly dressed in red on their way to dinner with good friend Adam Scott and actress Kate Hudson. Ogilvy wore blue jeans and flip-flops, his face unshaven because he forgot to bring his electric razor to Hawaii.
She could think of only one other time her husband wore a tuxedo after their wedding, and that was three years ago when they were invited to dinner at the White House. Ogilvy wound up at a table with President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and this was a month before he even won his first major.
Ogilvy is not terribly big on style.
Even on the PGA Tour, where images are formed before majors are won, the 31-year-old Australian doesn’t mind being ignored.
The 2009 season began last week with so much attention on a crop of young players who appear poised to challenge Tiger Woods. The PGA Tour even ran a snappy commercial promoting this clash of generations. On one side was Anthony Kim, Sergio Garcia and Camilo Villegas. On the other side were players like Woods, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els and Vijay Singh.
And where does Ogilvy fit in?
Maybe not for much longer.
Ogilvy opened the season with a wire-to-wire victory in the Mercedes-Benz Championship, the fifth PGA Tour victory of his career. That’s as many as Stewart Cink, but the quality of wins is becoming impressive.
True, his U.S. Open victory came courtesy of 18th-hole gaffes by Mickelson, Jim Furyk and Colin Montgomerie, but he still had to hit the perfect pitch and make the nervy putt, and he never shot worse than 72 that week at Winged Foot.
Ogilvy also won a pair of World Golf Championships, setting a record by playing 129 holes in five days at the Accenture Match Play Championship, and winning the CA Championship at Doral over Retief Goosen, Furyk, Woods, Singh and Steve Stricker.
His latest feat was a six-shot victory against a winners-only field at Kapalua, which was impressive for how he bounced back. After his six-shot margin was reduced to one, Ogilvy played the next seven holes in 7 under, starting with an eagle on the ninth hole.
That moved him up to No. 6 in the world ranking Monday and continued a quiet streak of good play.
After missing the Tour Championship because of a FedEx Cup points system that since has been changed, he tied for third in the HSBC Champions in China, won the Australian PGA for his first victory on native soil, and tied for sixth in the Australian Open.
Playing consistently well is what separates the elite players. Ogilvy could be headed in that direction, but at the moment, he remains somewhere in the middle.
Even the four top players missing from Maui — Woods, Garcia, Mickelson and Padraig Harrington — might not have been able to stop Ogilvy at Kapalua.
He faced two days of tough trade winds and his only bogey came on a three-putt from 85 feet, courtesy of the wind shifting directions during the five minutes he spent in a valley. Then came a Kona wind from the opposite direction, which he had never experienced, and Ogilvy strung together a 65. And on a soggy course from rain Sunday, he overcame four bogeys on the opening eight holes for a 68.
Ogilvy is beating strong fields, and he is no longer beating up on himself.
That was a problem during his first four years on tour, when he was a runner-up three times. While he doesn’t seek attention, Ogilvy sets high standards for each shot, each round, each tournament, and could berate himself when he didn’t meet them.
Perhaps having two children (Phoebe is 2, Jasper just turned 1) helps. And perhaps winning breeds realization. He has learned to be nice to himself, and he believes a more positive attitude is helping him in the big events.