Geoff Ogilvy seeks continuing improvement
U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy, refreshed after a fortnight's break, returns to the PGA Tour this week with high hopes and the Masters uppermost in his mind.
Although the big-hitting Australian capped a career-best campaign in 2006 with his first WGC title and a breakthrough major victory, he believes he can perform at a higher level.
"I could definitely play better than I did last year," Ogilvy told Reuters during preparation for this week's Phoenix Open close to his home in Scottsdale, Arizona.
"When I did play well, I played really well but when I didn't have good weeks, I wasn't nearly as sharp as I wanted to.
"As long as I can stay consistent and positive, that will be great but I know it's going to be pretty difficult. I could play unbelievably well this year and not have the record I had last year.
The 29-year-old from Adelaide has not played tournament golf since tying for eighth at the Sony Open in Hawaii two weeks ago.
While enjoying quality time at home with his young family, he has been practicing hard and looking ahead to the first major of the year, the April 5-8 Masters at Augusta National.
"It's been a good opportunity to sit down and see where I'm at between here and Augusta, just see where I need to be," said Ogilvy, who tied for 16th on his Masters debut last year.
"We all know what you have to do at Augusta. With those slick contoured greens, you've basically just got to leave the ball below the hole.
"There are certain shots that are definitely ideal for the Masters and I've been working hard on them. Augusta is definitely at the back of my mind."
Long regarded as a high-quality player by his peers, Ogilvy hinted at what was to come by pulling off a surprise victory at last year's WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.
He beat American Davis Love III 3&2 in the 36-hole final before going on to win his first major title by a stroke in the U.S. Open at Winged Foot after benefiting from late collapses by Phil Mickelson and Colin Montgomerie.
The first Australian to claim a major victory since Steve Elkington at the 1995 PGA Championship, Ogilvy ended the year a career-high fifth in the PGA Tour money list with earnings of $4,354,969.
"It was certainly a good year and just kept getting better and better," Ogilvy recalled. "The match play was a big win, the U.S. Open was a big win and then I had a baby, which was an even bigger win."
Phoebe Elizabeth, his first child, was born last October.
"I'm going to have to play pretty well to beat my record last year but I'm really looking forward to it," Ogilvy added.
"I feel like I'm playing better at the start of this year than I was 12 months ago, so that's a good sign. But golf's a funny game. It can come and go."
Ogilvy expects a tough challenge for his U.S. Open title defense at Oakmont County Club in Oakmont, Pennsylvania from June 14-17.
"Oakmont is probably even harder than Winged Foot, depending on how the course gets set up," he said. "I know they're taking a lot of trees out which should make it look better.
"I'll get up there at some point after Augusta. I will probably pop up there just once, have a look and come back.
"There are no real secrets to preparing for a U.S. Open. You've got to drive it straight, keep your head on and make the six-footers."
The Phoenix Open, the fifth event on the 2007 PGA Tour, starts on Thursday.
January 30, 2007