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Geoff Ogilvy comfortable on and off the course

Even when the desert sun pushed temperatures into the 90s, Geoff Ogilvy was as cool as can be.

It wasn’t always that way.

When he wasn’t getting the results he expected his first four years on the PGA Tour, no one was as critical of his game than Ogilvy. It wasn’t so much anger—few players get more angry than Tiger Woods—as the inability to keep his emotions from dragging him down.

That’s what stood out during his victory in the WGC Accenture Match Play Championship.

Ogilvy never flinched, even when he was on the verge of losing in the second round. Whether he was trying to retrieve his ball from a cholla cactus or watching his tee shot on the 343-yard 15th hole stop 4 feet from the cup, he looked the same.

“I think she changed him,” said his wife, Juli, from the patio outside the Dove Mountain clubhouse as Ogilvy mowed down two opponents on Saturday to reach the championship match for the third time in four years.

She was referring to Phoebe, their 2-year-old daughter, who lifted her head from a bowl of vanilla ice cream that covered her face. Kicking his feet from a high chair next to her was Jasper, who just turned 1.

Judy Rankin noticed the same thing.

The Hall of Famer and broadcaster is related to Ogilvy through marriage— her son’s wife and Ogilvy’s wife are sisters. They have spent Christmas dinner together in Lubbock, Texas, and they all went to a bowl game in Arizona three years ago when Texas Tech rallied to beat Minnesota.

“He’s very committed to his family, more than just his wife and the kids,” Rankin said. “He’s able to work things out on his terms. He seems to be happy in this role he has grown into. And I think that’s what you see on the golf course. He’s a very laid-back guy, the most comfortable person to be with.”

Indeed, Ogilvy is comfortable in just about any situation.

A month before he won the 2006 U.S. Open, he was invited to a black-tie dinner at the White House and wound up at a table with former President George W. Bush and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. At Kapalua this year, he looked equally content in blue jeans and flip-flops during a night out with his wife, Adam Scott and actress Kate Hudson.

Few players are more articulate, whether it’s discussing history or golf course design. Ogilvy has always been that way.

The trick was learning to like himself on the golf course.

“There was no real moment of clarity or epiphany or whatever,” Ogilvy said. “You want to say it was a very gradual process from being generally not very nice to myself on the golf course to being quite nice to myself on the golf course. Being negative on a golf course is a habit. You hit a shot and complain about it, and that’s just the way you play golf.

“It takes a while to change that, and it had been coming for a while before La Costa.”

La Costa is where Ogilvy first won the Accenture Match Play Championship in 2006, about four months before he captured the U.S. Open at Winged Foot with a birdie-par finish, a major better known even now for Phil Mickelson’s double bogey on the 18th hole.

Now, however, Ogilvy is starting to get his due.

He became the first player this year with multiple PGA Tour victories, having gone wire-to-wire to win at Kapalua. He now has won three times in his last seven starts, dating to the Australian PGA Championship in December.

With his victory Sunday, the 31-year-old Aussie moved to No. 4 in the world.

“I think when Geoff plays the golf he played today, you have to put him in that category,” Paul Casey said Sunday after falling behind on the opening hole and never catching up in a 4-and-3 match. “Geoff is a quiet guy. Maybe that’s why he doesn’t get the attention he deserves or the recognition he deserves. But he’s a phenomenal golfer. How many guys have won two World events?”

Ogilvy now has three World Golf Championships—twice in Match Play, and last year in the CA Championship at Doral, where he ended Woods’ winning streak at six PGA Tour events. He finished one shot ahead of Vijay Singh, Jim Furyk and Retief Goosen, with Woods another shot behind. That’s good company to keep, even better to beat.

Casey and Ogilvy have lived in Scottsdale for years, are members of the same club and even played a practice round at Dove Mountain two weeks before the Accenture Match Play Championship, just to get a look at the new course.

They know each other’s game, but they have never competed against each other with such high stakes as Sunday.

“What’s tough about playing Geoff is that he doesn’t change,” Casey said. “His demeanor doesn’t waver, which his a huge attribute, especially in match play. He walks the same pace, whether he’s playing well or poorly. He manages himself very, very well.”

Ogilvy drove home to Scottsdale for another week at home with the kids before beginning his road to the Masters—a title defense at Doral, then likely a tune-up in Tampa at the Transitions Championship.

There was a time he was a classic underachiever—loaded with talent and a temper, but no wins.

“There were periods where I knew I was a better player than my results were suggesting,” he said. “Right now, I think I’m achieving quite well. But I know I can play better.”


March 3, 2009

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