the time for reflection on such things eventually arrives, 2013 is unlikely to be a year he will recall with any great fondness. As recently as last January, 2010 Australian Open champion Geoff Ogilvy was ranked inside the world’s top-50, a position he had filled almost constantly since early in 2005. This week he arrives at Royal Sydney as, statistically at least, the 119th best golfer on the planet. It is, by almost any measure, a ridiculously lowly position for one so naturally gifted.
The numbers do not lie, however. This year on the PGA Tour, Ogilvy managed only one top-ten finish in 19 starts; on ten occasions he contrived to miss the halfway cut. For the first time since 2005, he was deemed unworthy of an invitation to the Masters Tournament at Augusta National, where he finished T-4 behind Charl Schwartzel as recently as 2011. For the first time in his career, he failed to progress beyond the opening event in the lucrative Fed-Ex Cup play-offs. And, remarkably, he was the worst player on the tour when it came to par-5s. All in all, it was ugly stuff.
For all that and even after struggling mightily with his swing, putting and overall game during the last few months, Ogilvy – who finished an encouraging T-7 at the recent Australian Masters – is optimistic about his prospects over a Royal Sydney course that has been good to him in the past. Back in 2006, only a startling birdie-birdie finish from John Senden prevented the then US Open champion from adding his own national title to an already burgeoning resume.
“I’m feeling good about my golf at the moment,” claims Ogilvy. “But yes, it would mean more to play well here this week than it has done in the past, even though my approach is really no different from other years. December in Australia is always nice, no matter how the year has gone. It would obviously be good to sit down in the off-season with a win fresh in my mind, but I have world-ranking issues to deal with. Those are more pressing than anything else, to be honest. The better I do here, the more I’ll be heading back in the right direction.”
Still, while the future, as ever, remains uncertain, Ogilvy is rightly proud of the fact that he will forever be an ‘Australian Open champion.’
“It’s funny, the older I get, the better it becomes,” he says. “Yes, it felt great at the time. But no, it didn’t really do much for my career in the short-term. It seems to be that Australian Open victories get more important the further you get from them.
“History will tell us how big my three World Golf Championship victories turn out to be. If they don’t exist in 20 years time, they will be no more than a blip. But when I am 60, winning in 2010 at The Lakes will still be up there at the top of my list of achievements, right behind my US Open win. Plus, by then I won’t be caring much about exemptions and sponsorships and all that kind of stuff.
“Half a century ago, the Australian Open was one of the five or six most important events in golf. You can make a great case for it being the next best thing to a major, even now. It is played on great courses. And we as a nation are a big part of professional golf and always have been. Which is why an Australian Open win is always going to look good on my cv.”