An exhausted Geoff Ogilvy finished last out of the 29 players competing at the Tour Championship. Admittedly, it was frustrating, but not enough to make the 37-year-old Australian feel any less satisfied about the way he finished the 2013-14 PGA Tour season, as he detailed in a first-person feature in the Sept. 15 issue of Golf World.
Yet suddenly -- or finally from Ogilvy's perspective -- the effort the former U.S. Open champion had been putting in to revive his sluggish game paid off. A victory at the Barracuda Championship (shown) in Reno, Nev., -- his first on the tour since 2010 -- got him into the playoffs at No. 90. He missed the cut at the Barclays, but advanced to the Deutsche Bank Championship, where a T-2 finish assured him spots in the final two FedEx events.
So how did he get back on track? The ever-insightful Ogilvy explains the process was more complicated than you'd think, and involved some soul searching.
> __At first my reaction was to practice harder and longer, experiment more with TrackMan, video and other equipment, and increase my work in the gym. It made me feel I was doing it the "correct" way, but it's actually easy to just work hard. Somebody next to you is hitting 500 balls, so you hit 550, and it seems you've gained ground. It's the time-honored sports approach that many simplistically ascribe to Ben Hogan, but I have no doubt even his voluminous practice was more about quality than quantity. __
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> __ Bottom line, that kind of "more" didn't really work for me. For months, I found myself dragging my clubs to the airport Friday night instead of Monday morning. I finally realized I had fallen prey to a common tour disease: getting analytical, doing a lot of repetition, taking a scientific approach that tempts with possible answers. __
In the end, Ogilvy explained that what he needed to jump-start his career is to focus less on practice, or at least the kind of practice that required hours of beating balls, and more on competition.
> __I got very good at grooving a swing pattern that worked only on the range. It didn't help me once I got to the course. In fact, it actually hurt my score because I had developed a flawed mental mind-set that it didn't matter where the ball was going because "it's only a practice shot." __
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> __ However, what I've known since I was a kid is that it __> does> > __ matter where the ball goes when you're trying to beat someone. So I began to play more friendly matches -- even for nine holes, and sometimes without a money bet -- that, because of my nature, I still wanted very much to win. And I rediscovered that if I really want the ball to go straight and not into the bushes, I'm better off playing a match than hitting 250 balls on the range. __
Interestingly, Ogilvy says it's harder than you think on the tour these days to get a game during practice rounds. The common preference, he says, is for players to hit multiple tee shots, a myriad of chips around greens and endless putt, rather than a "normal" round.
"Today it's as if nobody practices beating people anymore," Ogilvy writes, "and it could be why the current group of extremely talented and technically correct younger players don't seem to win as much as they should. I think it's telling that Phil Mickelson, who has won 42 times, has always enjoyed competing hard in practice rounds, challenging himself to win matches."
By returning to the top 30 on the PGA Tour, Ogilvy automatically qualifies for all four majors in 2015, no small reward considering he missed the Masters the last two years and the British Open in July. Needless to say, he's looking forward to the start of the 2014-15 season.