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Geoff Ogilvy ready for Match Play defence

Unpredictability, as title-holder Geoff Ogilvy well knows, is likely to be the watchword at this week's WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in Marana, Arizona.

Australian Ogilvy, then ranked 53rd in the world, pulled off a surprise victory in last year's 36-hole final at La Costa Resort and Spa, beating veteran American Davis Love III 3&2.

Although highly rated by his peers, Ogilvy had triumphed only once before on the PGA Tour and needed a marathon 80 holes to win his first four matches that week.

"More crazy stuff happens in match play than will ever happen in a stroke play tournament," U.S. Open champion Ogilvy told reporters during preparation for the opening World Golf Championships (WGC) event of the year.

"Crazy stuff happens in the last six holes of a stroke play tournament but crazy stuff happens all week in match play. You'll see guys chip in to go down extra holes or you'll see a guy win four holes in a row or hole three 30-footers in a row.

"I wish we could bottle what happens in match play for a stroke play tournament because we'd probably do a lot better."

Ogilvy, who will face 2001 champion Steve Stricker in Wednesday's first round at Dove Mountain's Gallery Golf Club, says last year's title was a pivotal factor in his U.S. Open success at Winged Foot four months later.

"I probably wouldn't have won the U.S. Open if I didn't get to win this tournament," he added.

"You've got the majors and the Players Championship and these (WGC events) are right behind those. These are the biggest tournaments in the world because everyone is here.

"It was an unbelievable finish last year when you're the only two people left on the golf course. You don't get that experience a lot. It was a fun event, and the biggest win of my career to that point."

The 29-year-old, who is based in nearby Scottsdale, relishes the different psychology required for match-play golf.

"When you're playing a guy, it's like you've never been friends with the guy, it's kind of strange," he said. "You stop talking to each other.

"But as soon as it's over, it's over, and you're having a beer or a Gatorade or whatever you have in the locker room afterwards."

Asked to pinpoint the key to success in match play, Ogilvy replied: "Drive it straight and putt well, you're going to win anywhere. Whoever holes the most six to eight-footers is going to be hard to beat." 

The vagaries of head-to-head golf are well documented and the record of twice champion Tiger Woods in the elite 64-man event is a prime example.

The world number one, who returns to action for the first time since winning last month's Buick Invitational outside San Diego, has reached the tournament final three times.

However, Woods has also experienced early disappointment, losing to Peter O'Malley at the first stage in 2002 and to another Australian, Nick O'Hern, in the second round in 2005.

"You never know what you're going to get," said Woods, who won at La Costa in 2003 and 2004. "It's the final round on the first day because anything can happen at any time.

"And it's a totally different mindset. Right from the first tee, it's a boat race for 18 holes. If you're one of the top players in the world, anyone can shoot a low number at any time."

Woods, who is seeded one, will meet fellow American J.J. Henry in Wednesday's opening round.

Masters champion Phil Mickelson, world number two Jim Furyk and third-ranked Adam Scott of Australia are the top seeds in the other three groups. 

Left-hander Mickelson, who won his 30th PGA Tour title at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am two weeks ago, will launch his campaign against Australian left-hander Richard Green.

Furyk starts out against fellow American Brett Quigley and Scott will take on another American, Shaun Micheel.

February 20, 2007


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