CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Stop us if you’ve heard this one.
PGA Tour type fights his swing, his psyche and finds himself two years removed from his last victory lap all the while telling anyone within a 9-iron that he’s close. So close, all he needs is the “reps.”
On Saturday the affable Aussie rounded the Carolina classic in a card-of-the-day 65 to vault into contention at the Wells Fargo Championship and, however inadvertently, strike a cord that is near and dear to Woods’ heart these days.
Ogilvy, like Woods, has been something of a work in progress for, say, the better part of two decades. Sure there was that Winged Foot Open where he was the last man standing on a bizarre Sunday and there have been multiple Tour tilts since then, but to hear him talk on a steamy Saturday afternoon at Quail Hollow one would have thought he’d just turned a corner in a long and grueling journey.
“It’s a trendy term these days, but I’ve always been stuck, which sucks when you’re doing it but you can only miss it to the right,” said Ogilvy, who was paired with Woods on Thursday and Friday in Charlotte. “I could only ever miss a shot to the right. I’d hit it straight or to the right.”
But the “tipping point” arrived late last year and Ogilvy started being able to draw the ball. It’s a simple enough concept, yet when asked how long he’d been working on the right-to-left shot he didn’t even crack a smile, “Twenty years.”
Way back, before Winged Foot and the PGA Tour Ogilvy began working with swing coach Dale Lynch at the famed Victoria Institute of Sport in Australia on hitting the ball left. But it was on Quail Hollow’s 18thhole Saturday that it all clicked, albeit at the worst possible moment.
Eight under for the day and just three strokes out of the lead Ogilvy’s drive at the last started down the middle of the fairway, drifted left and kept going, all the way into a creek.
He made bogey, but to hear him after the round one may have thought he won the lottery.
“Now I’m more on top of the ball and less stuck and hitting better shots and turning the ball over, which is a good thing most of the time,” said Ogilvy, whose last victory was the 2010 season opener at Kapalua. “It’s going to take just lots more play to get used to the fact.”
Which brings us back to Woods, the onetime Teflon champion who has been saddled with a “kick me” sign since he spiraled into a slump in late 2009.
Late Friday after missing just his eighth cut as a professional Woods intoned a familiar refrain when he was asked about the state of his swing.
“If you think about it, with Butch (Harmon) it took me two years and with Hank (Haney) it took me almost two years before old patterns are out,” Woods said. “It takes time to get rid of old patterns. It takes hundreds of thousands if not millions of golf balls, but eventually it comes around. I've had my share of successes, and I know it’s coming.”
For many fans and pundits time is not on Woods’ side.
Responding to Woods’ post-round comments on Friday Steve Elkington spoke for a vocal portion of the golf world on Twitter: “’Time to get rid of old patterns,’ Tiger said. ‘It takes hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of golf balls.’ // bull(****),” the 1995 PGA champion tweeted.
Our on-demand society disdains slow play in any form, particularly from its icons, and message boards are filled with arm-chair experts who have tired of Woods’ claim that it’s a “process.”
But as Ogilvy started for the locker room he paused to offer one final bit of insight that seemed strangely apropos to Woods’ current plight. “The tipping point came at some point last year,” he said. “Finally, one day you let yourself go and you’re like, ‘Look at that.’”
Woods doesn’t have 20 years to make Sean Foley’s swing his own – his climb to Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major championships has, on some level, reached the three-quarter pole of the race – but given the languid legacy of change, he certainly deserves more time to reach his “tipping point.”