he week of his 37th birthday and eight years removed from his U.S Open triumph at Winged Foot, Geoff Ogilvy is at what could be called an ‘interesting point’ in his career. Some would say ‘cross-roads’ but not me.
He first earned his playing privileges on the American tour in 2001 and whilst it took him some time to win anything as a pro it was almost as his long-time coach, Dale Lynch predicted when he said, ‘he hasn’t won anything yet – but when he does it’s going to be something huge.’
It turned out it wasn’t. He beat Kevin Na in a playoff in Tuscon on a week where the event clashed with the World Matchplay championship in California. Lynch was eerily prescient however and a year later Ogilvy won the U.S Open.
Some accused Phil Mickelson of handing it to him with an awful double bogey at the final hole but at the end of these things it is the one who can keep his nerve and his head who most often wins. Mickelson conspicuously failed to do both as did the other double-bogey finisher Colin Montgomerie. Instead it was the relatively inexperienced Melbourne man who made the right choices and hit the right shots when it mattered.
Ogilvy won other big events in subsequent season including the aforementioned World Match Play twice, two Tournament of Champions in Hawaii and Doral after it was designated as a World Championship Event.
Bach at home he won both the PGA Championship and the 2010 Australian Open and for any Australian kid growing up, the home Open is one they all want to win. It may not be the 5th major but for so many of our players there are only four tournaments ahead of it.
If you judge a man on those results it has been an awfully good career. Sure, others have played better and won more but Ogilvy has won big events against the best players and he has made much of his talent to play the game.
These past eighteen months however have been a struggle. Too often he has missed the halfway cuts, something he rarely did in his good seasons.
I haven’t seen him play enough in the last year to really make an informed comment but at Royal Melbourne and Royal Sydney last Australian summer he looked less sure of where the ball was going than ever before. He has always played with his poor shot going to the right but last summer he had the left miss going as well and as Peter Thomson once said, ‘you can’t set a field for that.’
There have been flashes of good play this year in America and at The Players Championship he was in the top few half way through his front nine on Saturday. Here was the week he was going to finally set things right but instead he played an awful final 27 holes and finished way back in the pack.
Confidence is a fickle thing and when things are going well the golfer wonders how anything could ever go wrong again. Conversely, ‘when the rain is coming down’, as Severiano Ballesteros used to say, ‘all you can do it put up the umbrella and wait.’
For Ian Baker-Finch, the umbrella never come down whilst others including one of the more favoured players this week at Pinehurst, Steve Stricker, the sun came back and unexpectedly brighter than ever before.
Ogilvy is not old enough yet to think all his best days are past. He is strong and flexible and still ambitious but missing cuts and playing poorly brings no joy. Sitting in hotel rooms on your own with a wife and three young children on the other side of the country it is easy to see why you would begin to ask the ‘why am I bothering with all this?’ question.
This week at Pinehurst is hardly a make or break week for Ogilvy but only a handful of years ago he would be cited as one of the favorites. So many of the short shots around the greens will remind him of the courses he grew up playing on the Melbourne sandbelt and perhaps it will be an advantage.
Others of ours including the obvious ones Adam Scott and Jason Day will be more favored but Ogilvy at least knows he has done it before.