The Aussie won the U.S. Open and some admirers
The term "old head on young shoulders" is often overused in sporting circles, but nothing sums up Geoff Ogilvy better. In a golf world that has gone perhaps irretrievably high-tech in the last decade or so, the U.S. Open champion from Australia stands out like a hickory shaft in a sea of graphite. Home in Melbourne for a visit during the Aussie winter, Ogilvy went for an informal game with friends, one he calls "almost the most fun I've ever had on the golf course."
"I played at Royal Melbourne with persimmon clubs, and all of a sudden the game had so many more dimensions," he says. "I discovered that you don't have to hit a driver full out. You can bunt it out there with a little draw and let it run.
"The 3-wood was my favorite club. I could hit half-shots and shape the ball into the fairway or green."
Unusual for a player of his class and relative youth, Ogilvy, 29, is an avid reader of golf literature, especially books on course architecture. Raised within walking distance of the Alister Mackenzie-designed Royal Melbourne, perhaps the best course in the Southern Hemisphere, Ogilvy is passionate on the subjects of strategic options and course setup. And after receiving government-supported golf instruction in Australia and spending his early professional years knocking around on the European tour, he has a few ideas about why America's young players have struggled.
In search of more clues, including how Ogilvy won his first major title on a bizarre day last June at Winged Foot, Golf Digest spent more than six hours with him during a three-month span in late 2006. We sat with him during the PGA Championship in suburban Chicago, then again in downtown Sydney just before the Australian Open. Coincidentally, both interviews took place in Borders bookstores, the unassuming and largely unrecognized Ogilvy perfectly at ease among the browsers and coffee drinkers.
Golf Digest: You're the U.S. Open champion and one of the top-10 golfers in the world, but we sat in a Borders for two hours yesterday and no one looked at you twice.
Geoff Ogilvy: That's good. The no-hat thing still works.
Do you care?
Not really. I'm fine with the way it is. I don't think I'm ever going to have to change what I do or where I go. I'm never going to be like Tiger or Phil. You can't create that; it just happens. It is nice to see kids run off to tell their parents after they get your signature. That's seriously cool.
What was the most emotional moment for you at Winged Foot?
Talking to my parents on the phone just after the ceremony--when I was on the 18th green. That was the only time I got emotional, other than when I saw [wife] Juli right after I came off and realized how happy she was.
A lot was made of Adam Scott getting off the plane and coming back to celebrate with you. But that struck me as a perfectly normal thing to do.
It was normal for someone like Adam. I like to think I would have done the same for him. There are plenty who wouldn't have done it: jump off a private plane to delay a trip to England, then fly commercial the next day. That was a fair change of plans. But it was also a very cool thing to do.
What did he say to you?
He was very excited. And I'm sure insanely jealous at the same time. I think my winning the U.S. Open lit something inside Scotty. It fired him up to win one soon. Because he is going to win one.
That night after winning the Open you celebrated in the lobby of your hotel. Who showed up?v
A bunch of Aussies. I was there until about 2 a.m. People will get annoyed if I forget them; I'd had a few drinks by the end of the night. The funny thing was that there must have been 20 or 30 people just watching us drink out of the trophy and stuff. And lots of people came up and asked for autographs and pictures. It really was good fun.
You turn 30 the week of your U.S. Open defense at Oakmont. Be a spokesman for today's under-30 players.
Adam Scott and Sergio aren't doing too badly. Sergio might need someone to dress him, though. [Smiles.] But when he starts making putts again--which he's going to do--he's going to win 10 times in a year. He just is. He's the best ball striker in the world, probably. How ugly was his last round in the [British] Open at Hoylake?
Do you mean the yellow shirt and pants, or his putting?
I was lucky; I was on the golf course and didn't see it. I like Sergio. We play together all the time. But his putting has gone a bit awry. It's odd. He's so analytical about his putting and not about everything else. I remember playing against him when he was a 16- or 17-year-old amateur. You could almost tell him to pick it up from 15 feet. It was a joke how good he was at putting. He was the best I had ever seen at that stage. So somewhere along the line he's changed something. It looks to me as if there's too much thinking and not enough doing going on. He'll work it out, though. And when he does, it'll be stupid how many events he wins.
There is a contrast right now between Europe and the U.S. when it comes to developing young players.
That's true. I know the U.S. press is looking for the next great American under 30.
Is it just cyclical?
It's an expensive sport in the U.S. It's cheaper in Australia, or the U.K. or South Africa. Anyone can play.
I do think that the American college system is really good at producing guys who can get the ball in the hole, but it neglects the technical aspects of golf. They're looking for the wrong things. I'm not saying the American guys aren't talented; all I'm saying is that some talent is getting missed.
If the Americans sorted their system out, we'd have only five on the PGA Tour [a dozen Aussies are among the top 100 of the World Golf Ranking]. We get more out of our talent than they get out of theirs. Their way of doing things can't be better than ours, because we have 20 million people and they have 300 million. It just doesn't add up.
Given the enormous influx of Australians on the PGA Tour, why hasn't a college coach wondered why and gotten himself down to the VIS [Victorian Institute of Sport] to have a look?