KAPALUA, Hawaii - Geoff Ogilvy has come back to Kapalua Resort for some unfinished business that has been a long time coming. But he isn't buying into the notion that he can occupy the podium with last year's winner, Zach Johnson, as something akin to a defending champion of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
"I think that would be a bit of a stretch," Ogilvy said with his trademark impish grin.
Well, sure it is. And it's been a long stretch between Ogilvy's appearance here this week and when he last visited the Plantation Course for a competitive round of golf. That was in 2010, and he walked off the trademark par-5 18th hole a winner for the second consecutive year.
That's right, his last visit resulted in a win.
Let us explain.
Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open champion, fired a final-round 67 in the 2010 edition to successfully defend his title in this winner's only tournament. But he never got the chance to attempt to join Gene Littler and fellow Australian native Stuart Appleby as players to win this event three straight times. While venturing out into the ocean at a nearby beach prior to the first round, Ogilvy slipped on some rocks and put his hands down in the water to catch himself. In the process, he cut his right index finger on a jagged piece of coral. Twelve stitches later, he was on his way home.
It took him 98 starts to earn another invitation, winning last year's Barracuda Championship, a tournament that uses the Stableford scoring system and is played opposite the World Golf Championship-Bridgestone Invitational - the kind of tournament he never used to miss when he was ranked as high as third in the world.
Things have definitely changed since Ogilvy shot a combined 26 under par in his 2009 and 2010 victories. Experience is usually an advantage on the uniquely designed Plantation Course layout that can confound neophytes with a combination of wind and terrain. But going off memory hasn't helped the eight-time PGA Tour winner.
"It's obviously a massive experience place, but it's kind of weird this year," said Ogilvy, 37. "[It's] so soft. Little shots like down into No. 7 are just completely different. It's a different Kapalua from what I've seen. Not better or worse, just different. I've been caught a couple of times respecting the hills and the grain [of the Bermuda grass] too much.
"This probably is the year for first-timers doing well. It's so extreme sometimes. It's not like that this year."
With a birdie at 18 Friday, Ogilvy eked out a 1-under 72, breaking a string of eight straight sub-70 scores. But after making some mental adjustments, he came back Saturday with a second-round 4-under 69. He trails a quartet of leaders by six strokes, but birdies can come in bunches at the Plantation Course. Charley Hoffman birdied eight of his final 10 holes.
"I'm playing well. I just needed four-under yesterday, too," he said. Ogilvy endured a rough stretch between plane rides to Maui. He dropped as low as 216th in the world as he struggled with some nagging injuries and his form. Strangely, however, he didn't miss the annual visit to this tropical destination.
Or at least he thought he didn't.
"I didn't miss it when I wasn't here. But I realize now that I missed it," he said. "It's nice to come to Hawaii. It's great. But it's nice to stay at home and start two weeks later. I'm in Scottsdale [Ariz.], and just drive across three hours to Palm Springs and the Hope [Humana Challenge]. It's a pretty cruise-y way to start the year. I didn't really think of it as a bad thing. But now that I come back, I realize how much I love to play here."
And maybe have a chance to win that third in a row. Stretch or not, that's what it would be.