Golf Australia

Luke Elvy blog: Ogilvy makes fightback move

Geoff Ogilvy
Geoff Ogilvy was in contention at the Honda Classic.

Geoff Ogilvy is a born winner and you didn’t need me to tell you that. His US Open victory in 2006, three WGC titles plus five other worldwide wins, including an Australian Open, is enough evidence.

I’m not talking about on the course; I’m talking about life in general. A talented student and athlete growing up, Ogilvy was used to success and it followed him as much as he pursued it.

He’s intelligent, which has him yearning for more than simply being labelled a professional golfer. He shares a golf course design business with Mike Clayton and writes regular columns for Golf World that adds strings to his bow.

More importantly, he has a beautiful family and the kind of financial security very few will ever know. All this amounts to a life of success, which is why the past two years have been tough for the 35 year-old to take.

Since that Australian Open win at The Lakes in December 2010, Ogilvy has struggled to achieve at the level he’d become accustomed to. He was barely in contention, in fact you could count the times on one hand.

It was due to a number of reasons; he got injured, suffered from a stomach virus and lost confidence with his most potent on course weapon – the putter. Subsequently, his world ranking started to slide and it got to as low as 79th as of last week.

“Bad putting is a bit like a virus, it starts wearing you out after a while” said Ogilvy to Tom Auclair of tourplayers.com, after his runner up at The Honda Classic.

That result has moved Ogilvy up to 47th in the OWGR and also secured him a start in this week’s WGC - Cadillac Championship. Another solid result at Doral and he’ll achieve what he’s been focussed on, getting a start at The Masters.

Pro golf is very much about the haves and the have-nots. It’s all about making the most of the opportunities you get. Inside the world top 50 you are treated like royalty. You get starts in all the Majors and WGC events plus tournaments outside of the PGA Tour offer appearance fees and you can hand pick your schedule before the year begins.

At the end of 2012, Ogilvy was 51st in the world and found himself in unfamiliar territory-on the outside looking in. Unhappy about this underachieving, he packed up the family and moved from their sunny seaside residence in San Diego back to Arizona.

While cynics might suggest a better tax situation was behind it, Ogilvy made the move to get back into work mode. He feels he has at least five good years in him and wants to give it his best crack.

Whisper Rock is an elite players club in Arizona where many tour pros, including Aaron Baddeley are members, and in off weeks matches are played to stay ‘tour ready’.

“There are guys there who you’ve never heard of, who I won’t give any shots to and they’ll push me all the way over 18 holes.” said Ogilvy. “They’re not pros, just really good golfers who can flat out play and it helps keep the game sharp.”

It all pointed to a positive start to 2013 but it didn’t come.

A tie for 27th at the Humana Challenge, his season opener, was quickly forgotten as he missed the next four cuts. The main reason? He’d lost his mojo with the putter.

“The West Coast [greens] are very hard to find form on, if you’re putting well you hole a lot of putts and you see guys do it every year. But if you’re struggling when you get on the West Coast, you’re not going to find form on those greens.”

At the end of the West Coast swing he ranked a lowly 168th out of 177 in the most trustworthy of putting statistics, Strokes Gained Putting. It’s a far cry from the top 25 where he used to be.

It saw him miss out of the WGC - Accenture Match Play in Arizona, which hurt. It’s an event he’s dominated having won twice and made the final on another occasion so the Florida swing became the chance to start afresh.

Coach Dale Lynch joined him from Australia and while they didn’t make any drastic changes on the practise putting green at PGA National, they simply worked on the correct set up which improved his feel. The payoff was instant.

“I holed a few putts on Thursday, you’re under [par] before you’re over and all of a sudden you feel like you’re getting into the tournament. Once I get into a tournament, usually I’m alright, you’ve just got to get into it.”

He got into it all right, deep into it.

His chip in for birdie at 16 was reminiscent of when he won the US Open at Winged Foot, then he almost aced the difficult par 3 17th before a superb two-putt birdie at the last. Geoff came within a couple of shots of snatching what would’ve been his eighth PGA Tour win, instead American Michael Thompson claimed his first.

However, now that Ogilvy appears to have fixed his putting woes, it’d be a brave (read: stupid) person who backs against him making it back to where he belongs – amongst the world’s best.

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Golf Australia