Ogilvy tries to sustain his success

By Doug FergusonJanuary 11, 2010, 9:14 pm
SBS Championship

KAPALUA, Hawaii – What figures to be a peculiar year got off to a familiar start in Hawaii.

Geoff Ogilvy was a wizard with the wedge, unflappable in the wind, found a new ally with his 5-wood and opened the PGA Tour season with another victory at Kapalua in the SBS Championship. It raised hopes for a big season, just as it did a year ago, and just as it should.

Ogilvy might only have seven PGA Tour victories, but they are quality wins – the U.S. Open at Winged Foot, twice at the Match Play Championship, another World Golf Championship at Doral, and back-to-back victories against a field of PGA Tour winners. When he plays this well, the 32-year-old Australian believes he can beat anyone.

“When it’s good, it’s really good,” Ogilvy said after closing with a 6-under 67 for a one-shot victory over Rory Sabbatini. “I like how I play when I play good, so I’m not concerned about how good I can be when I’m actually playing well, because I think I can hang with most guys. I haven’t shown that I could do well when my game is a little off. I think that’s the sign of a really great player.”

The reference is Tiger Woods, and it was one of the few times at Kapalua that a conversation about the world’s No. 1 player was about his golfing ability.

Ogilvy marvels at how Woods has played so consistently well for such a long time. He noted the times Woods didn’t have his best stuff and still managed to win, which accounts for the 82 victories worldwide.

“I think I need to get to that sort of point,” Ogilvy said. “I think I can. I think I can be a player who can win any golf tournament I play. I’ve just got to work to get through the bad days and bad patches.”

The familiar result at Kapalua – Ogilvy with the champion’s lei draped around his neck – was more about change.

Ogilvy didn’t look the same. A change in endorsement has him playing Titleist instead of Cobra, wearing Foot-Joys instead of Puma. The season began with a new regulation for grooves, with a less forgiving V-shape in wedges of every player’s bag.

The biggest difference was the discussion about Woods, mainly because no one knows when – or even if – golf’s biggest star will return from a tawdry sex scandal that has kept him out of public view for two months.

“It’s going to linger for a while,” Ogilvy said. “It’s lost a bit of sting in the tabloids, hasn’t it? Which is going to happen. He is … the best golfer ever – or appeared to be on the way there – and the most written-about golfer, and the most publicized golfer and everything. It’s going to take a long time.”

Ogilvy joined the conversation earlier in the week by suggesting No. 1 in the world might realistically be up for grabs, depending on how long Woods stays away and who plays well enough and long enough to catch him.

At the moment, Ogilvy is headed in the right direction.

Then again, he was headed that way a year ago. When he won the Match Play Championship in February, it was his third victory in seven starts worldwide, and few could find much fault with his game. Ogilvy is among the most well-rounded players – power, super touch with the wedge, a good putter and a great thinker.

He didn’t win again for more than 10 months until Kapalua.

Ogilvy attributed that to too much work, not enough patience. He became addicted to hitting balls instead of worrying about posting a score, and then he tried forcing himself to play good golf. It was a vicious cycle.

“I had it in my head that I wanted to get something done with my golf swing,” he said. “The mission becomes hitting well on the range, rather than the course. You’re happy the way it’s going. This is great when it’s finally started working. And then it’s September, October.”

His epiphany came in early October at the Presidents Cup, even as he lost to Steve Stricker in singles the final day.

“I had a moment of clarity: ‘What are you trying so hard for? Here’s a ball and there is a hole. Just hit it that way.’ Keep it simple the whole time,” Ogilvy said.

It was simple enough Sunday in the final round, especially when he saw Sabbatini post a 63 to take the clubhouse lead at 21-under 271. Ogilvy was at 20 under when he turned and saw the leaderboard leaving the 13th green, and knew where he needed to finish.

Instead of trying to drive the green on the 272-yard 14th hole, he smartly laid up with 4-iron off the tee. A driver could land in more bad places than good ones, so he trusted his wedge and hit it to 4 feet for birdie. On the par-5 15th, he hit 5-wood to about 25 feet and two-putted for the outright lead. Pars over the last three holes were good enough.

“He played very smartly,” Sabbatini said. “We all know Geoff is an excellent golfer, but his strategy around the golf course is impeccable.”

Ogilvy was headed home to Arizona before going halfway around the world to Abu Dhabi on the European Tour, with no plans to play again until he defends another title at the Match Play Championship, hopeful his third child has been born by then.

The real test comes during the summer when the majors are held, whether Woods has returned or not.

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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.

It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.

Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.

Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.

Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.

After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.

Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.

Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

"I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.