Geoff Ogilvy is under no illusions about the importance of this week at Royal Sydney. The 2010 Emirates Australian Open champion says it means everything to antipodean players.
"This is a major for us,'' said Ogilvy, who has just returned from America for his last tournament of the calendar year. "We probably get a bit blasé about the Australian Open when we're over there, we're playing and not really thinking about it.
"But as soon as we get here… for every Australian it hits me every time I get back here how important this tournament is. It's a major for the Australian players, I think. It'd be great Christmas break if I could win this, the last tournament of the year, and kind of springboard off this for next year.''
The 39-year-old Ogilvy, one of Australian golf's most-accomplished players and a major champion, is in what he called the "no man's land'' of his career, having activated a one-off exemption for the 2016-17 US PGA Tour season that is available on career earnings.
It gives him a chance to play throughout the current season but he must make enough money — or more accurately, score enough Fedex Cup points — to stay on the main tour. All of which means his tied-fourth in Las Vegas last week behind Rod Pampling, with more than $200,000 in prizemoney, is helpful.
"The golf motivation never goes away,'' he said. "It's the travel and the going away from the kids. It ebbs and flows but I'm probably more motivated than I have been for quite a while now. I feel pretty good about it. The golf is improving, getting better.
"I feel capable of playing better than I ever have. Whether that eventuates with scores, I don't know. I know my game better than I ever have. I've got a better idea of getting myself out of ruts, kind of maximising the good stuff.''
As a 20-year veteran, Ogilvy has worked out what makes him tick; notably that he is not a "range golfer''. Rather than beating balls, he prefers to play for money at home in Scottsdale, Arizona, where he can find a bunch of willing, professional opponents in not time at all at his home club, Whisper Rock. "Little competitive money games, that is what's good for me.''
The money is not huge; it is more about the winning and losing. "Look, the way most of us are, if we went out and played for one dollar, that's enough. It's the pride issue, it's getting the money out of the other guy's pocket that's the thrill.''
Ogilvy likes the feel of the modern Australian Opens, pointing out an upward trend since the experiment with Moonah Links in the mid-2000s. ''The last 10 years it's got bigger every year. The year that Rory (McIlroy in 2013) and then Adam (Scott) shot 10-under the first round, that was a big tournament, it felt big. It feels like it's got bigger every year the last 10 years.''
The Melburnian was second to John Senden at Royal Sydney in 2006, denied by the Queenslanders brilliant birdies at the last two holes. But the course fits his eye, albeit that he sees it as "draw-dependent'' because of the winds. The secret? "Keep the ball in play, and make a bunch of putts.''
Ogilvy tees off with Jordan Spieth and outstanding amateur Curtis Luck at 7.10am Thursday.