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Having been paired together over the first 36-holes of this 100th Australian Open, Jordan Spieth and Geoff Ogilvy were alongside each other again on day three. Both began what is tediously known in the United States as “moving day” on three under par, each having made eight birdies to the halfway mark. But there the similarities ended.
Tee-to-green, Ogilvy had been markedly superior, hitting 78 percent of the greens in regulation figures to Spieth’s 61 percent. In other words, the Australian has putted for birdie six times more than the American. Indeed, anyone unaware of their identities watching the pair in action would surely have pointed to Ogilvy as the player more likely to be the current world number one. As the 2006 US Open champion indicated on the eve of the championship, he has rarely if ever struck the ball better than he is doing right now.
As we all know though, there is more to golf than full swing proficiency. And on the putting surfaces, the reverse was true. Where Spieth averaged 1.64 putts on every green he found in the proper number of shots, Ogilvy needed 2.07.
“I did get up-and-down quite a bit,” admitted the 22-year old Texan. “I would certainly have shot worse had my short game not been there.”
One day later, underlining the unpredictability of the game Scotland gave to the world, both men performed rather differently. Ogilvy missed some greens – and, yes, some putts – and Spieth? Well, after dropping shots at three of the first four holes and falling back to level par, the Masters and US Open champion got himself round in 67, courtesy of six brides and an eagle in his next 15 holes. It helped too that he holed his usual quota of putts, as well as a 181-yard 7-iron approach to the penultimate green. Hey. Good things happen to good people.
“That was one of the best fought rounds I can remember,” said Spieth, who trails the 54-hole leader, Matt Jones, by there shots. “The eagle on 17 was two shots you just don’t expect. I flushed it, looked up and it was right on line.
“But nothing is certain. I’ve seen enough competitive Sundays to know that so much can happen in 18 holes. The great thing is I haven’t peaked yet at this tournament. It could be tomorrow. I hope so. I will need to play well. Last week I was asked who, outside of the top-three names in the field, was a guy to look out for. I said Matt Jones.”
As for Ogilvy, the 2010 Australian Open champion was understandably flat after his 71, yet another round that could hardly have added up to a higher number. But he remained optimistic about his longer-term future.
“That’s been the way of things for me for quite a while,” he said. “At least I made a few putts. Today is actually the worst I’ve hit the ball all week. It’s so hard to hit the right club out there. Every shot is across, ‘just-helping’ or across, ‘just-hurting.’ Look at the 13th. I drew a 9-iron over the back of the green And Jordan comes up short cutting-in the same club – and he was 20-yards closer.
“Still this is progress for me, I guess. Even if it is frustrating. It can’t be long before I make some putts. I know how to read greens. And my chipping is good. I think I can still win, but Jordan and Matt are going to be so tough to beat. If you finish in front of them you win, I think.”
Ogilvy even managed a rueful smile when asked about the man with whom he has played three rounds over the last three days.
“Things are happening for Jordan,” he shrugged. “Like they did for Tiger back in the day. Just at the right time. He is just bumping along then ‘bang,’ he finishes eagle-birdie. Suddenly he is in the last group. That’s exactly the sort of thing Tiger used to do. There must be some kind of mystical force in the universe. Plus, of course, he’s just a great player.”